Draw the line from Hobby Lobby to Indiana: Religion has dangerously infected our legal system. It’s getting worse
By now, it’s clear that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was crafted to empower piously bigoted entrepreneurs and companies desirous of freelancing with their own “Jim Crow for gays” restrictions, and to let them cite as legal justification for doing so their precious religious sensibilities. The RFRA, said the original text, sought to give judicial succor to those who found that their “exercise of religion . . . has been substantially burdened,” or was just “likely to be substantially burdened” by performing services for people their faith’s sacred credos enjoin them to abhor (gays, in this case). The ensuing uproar in the media and business circles compelled Indiana’s state Senate to amend the legislation to prevent its deployment against the LBGT community, but state Democrats are still calling for its repeal.
The danger, however, has by no means passed. RFRAs already exist in 21 other states (in three of which, bills are pending to fortify them), and three more are considering adopting similar measures. The RFRA just passed last week in Arkansas may allow faith-based discrimination; we now await a test case.
Yet the real menace to our priceless heritage of secular governance comes from the Supreme Court, which a year ago (in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby) ruled that corporations, on the basis of their religious convictions (yes, the Court decided corporations have those), can exempt themselves from the Affordable Care Act’s relevant articles and refuse to pay for contraceptives in their employee health plans. (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent, warned that this was a “decision of startling breadth,” and she was right.) If a case involving a new manifestation of such legislation (say, the Arkansan RFRA) ever lands before the nine-member Roberts Court, its five conservative justices will no doubt adjudicate in favor of the faithful – and against rationalists who hold that religion, in no shape or form, should be allowed to infect our legal system. What is really needed is a federal LGBT shield law, but none exists.