The Magazine

A Vindication of Religious Pluralism

There are many reasons to cheer the Hobby Lobby decision.

Jul 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 41 • By JOSHUA HAWLEY
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The upshot is that believers of all faiths are free to pursue their religious convictions peaceably. And that means believers of every faith have felt they belonged as Americans.

The Obama administration’s attempt to force peaceable religious expression from the workplace—the administration argued to the Supreme Court that commercial activity and religious conviction were opposed and incompatible—threatened this constitutional settlement. The administration claimed that religion is and should be an essentially private matter that becomes fully regulable by government if expressed in public.

But that invites the government to decide which religious beliefs are important, which deserve accommodation, which fit best with the government’s plans. That approach turns religious groups into competing factions attempting to win the government’s favor, perhaps at the expense of others. That is to say, the Obama administration’s approach is an invitation to social disunity, faction, and strife.

By protecting the right of all citizens to express their faith peaceably in the workplace and through their businesses, the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby preserved the historic American commitment to “special solicitude” for all religious belief. Or as Justice Anthony Kennedy summarized in his concurring opinion, “Among the reasons the United States is so open, so tolerant, and so free is that no person may be restricted or demeaned by government in exercising his or her religion.”

That is an affirmation worth celebrating.

Joshua Hawley is an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri and counsel to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He is one of the attorneys who represented Hobby Lobby at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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