Huh? NYT's Liptak Claims Hobby Lobby Case 'Pits Religious Liberty Against Women’s Rights'

The Supreme Court today hears oral arguments in a highly charged case, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which will decide whether private corporations under Obama-care have the right to exercise religious objections to covering certain forms of emergency birth control, like morning-after pills, that the company believes are tantamount to abortion. The chain of arts-and-craft stores is challenging the provision under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which sets a high bar on government regulation involving religious belief.

But New York Times legal reporter Adam Liptak managed to get it wrong in his lead sentence in Tuesday's paper:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a case that pits religious liberty against women’s rights.

That issue is momentous enough. But it only begins to touch on the potential consequences of the court’s ruling in the case, notably for laws banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

As Gabriel Malor writes at The Federalist, "Women will have the same constitutional rights to acquire and use contraception regardless of whether Hobby Lobby wins or loses. More than that, they’ll have the exact same rights as they had before the contraception mandate was a gleam in Sec. Sebelius’ eye. What women won’t have is the right to force other people to pay for their contraception, but that has never been a right recognized by the Supreme Court."

The rest of Liptak's article is fairly balanced, though supporters of Obama-care got the initial emphasis in the form of former solicitor general Walter Dellinger, who argued “A win for Hobby Lobby could turn out to be a significant setback for gay rights.”

Liptak pointed out that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was "enormously popular when it was enacted" in 1993, in response to a controversial Supreme Court decision. But:

Two decades later, the law is at the center of challenges from adherents of mainstream religions who object to coverage requirements that the law’s supporters say are crucial to women’s health and gender equality.

A Sunday Times editorial was absolutely hostile to religious freedom, right from the headline: "Crying Wolf on Religious Liberty."

These companies are not religious organizations, nor are they affiliated with religious organizations. But the owners say they are victims of an assault on religious liberty because they personally disapprove of certain contraceptives. They are wrong, and the Supreme Court’s task is to issue a decisive ruling saying so. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the owners trying to impose their religious beliefs on thousands of employees.

The Times, besides making other bad arguments, denied that corporations are people.

There are several reasons why the court should find that the law does not apply, starting with the fact that secular, for-profit corporations are not “persons” capable of prayer or other religious behavior, which is a quintessentially human activity.

Here's Malor again: "In the Hobby Lobby case, where the organization's mission statement explicitly included a charge to operate in accord with the owners' religious faith, there can be no question that the corporation was intended to further the 'quintessentially human activity' of religious behavior."

And it wouldn't be the Times without a detour into hard-shell leftism, promoting Obama-care because "access to affordable contraception advances gender equality."

Clay Waters
Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.