So much of the debate over Indiana’s new religious freedom law revolves around the gap between the letter of the law and the politics behind it. Supporters note that the law doesn’t mention gays and lesbians, and that similar laws (though not identical ones) have been on the books in other jurisdictions for years. Opponents point to the fact that the law’s advocates organized support for it with arguments about protecting business owners who object to being vendors for same-sex weddings. They're both right, just about different things.
One baker doesn’t want to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Another baker doesn’t want to decorate a cake with the words “God hates gays.” Are the two cases comparable? The differences may be obvious, but they’re also complex.
Did you hear about the for-profit wedding chapel owners in Idaho who are claiming a constitutional right (pdf) to refuse services to same-sex couples? From Marci Glass's entertaining post:
I hate to be the one to point this out to the Reverends Knapp, but they are not, in fact, pastors of a church. They own a wedding mill.
The Supreme Court reflects the politics of the moment. And two recent decisions are in line with a shift of the current court toward the right.
The case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby has received extraordinary attention as a site of struggle between faith and law. The Supreme Court’s decision that businesses may refuse on principle to provide contraception coverage has not been a shining hour for religious freedom. Many observers fear that the ruling will do less to protect that freedom than to expand the power of corporations. Hobby Lobby has overshadowed two other suits this term that offered more compelling instances of conscience in action.
Yesterday I posted about the Hobby Lobby decision, observing that it can’t be both a broad precedent that will protect liberals’ freedom of conscience along with conservatives’ and a narrow ruling that isn’t really a big deal. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court was clarifying that whatever the ruling ultimately means, it definitely isn’t quite as narrow as to apply to just the allegedly abortifacient contraceptives Hobby Lobby’s owners object to.
Is Burwell v. Hobby Lobby about freedom of (corporate) conscience broadly, or is it just about a few specific contraceptives? It can’t really be both.
One interesting element in the debate over laws like Arizona's SB 1062 has been a widespread willingness to simply accept the basic framing—LGBT equality/nondiscrimination vs. religious freedom—as the obvious starting point. But just a few years ago, this wouldn't have been obvious at all. Religious freedom may be the rallying cry of much of the right, but only recently. People used to talk about religious freedom less, and when they did they were often liberals. What changed?
In case you missed it last Friday, the Obama administration quietly issued a proposed update to regulations coming out of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare." The verbiage is a bit dense, but here's the upshot: the ACA requires health plans to provide contraceptive coverage to all insured members. Some religious organizations and even a few for-profit companies objected to this requirement, citing religious beliefs.
The Barna Group's recent religious freedom poll is pretty interesting. Evangelicals overwhelmingly support religious freedom and are concerned about its possible demise—yet a majority of them also believe that "traditional Judeo-Christian values should be given preference."