Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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April 8, 2014

The war on Hobby Lobby

Not too long ago, the Greens of Oklahoma City were law-abiding people running an arts-and-crafts chain called Hobby Lobby.

They weren’t disturbing the peace, or denying anyone his or her rights. They were minding their own business — quite successfully and in keeping with their Christian faith. The roughly 600 Hobby Lobby stores stock Christian products, close on Sundays and play Christian music.

Then one day Uncle Sam showed up to make an offer that the Greens couldn’t refuse — literally. As part of Obamacare, federal law demands that the chain cover contraceptives that the Greens consider abortifacients. The family decided it couldn’t comply with the law in good conscience, and its case is now before the Supreme Court.

Hobby Lobby went from an inoffensive business to a scofflaw and an alleged combatant in the “war on women” in no time at all — and without changing any significant employment or business practice. Thus is the transformation wrought by the coercive sweep of Obamacare, which risks doing as much damage to conscience rights as it has done to the insurance market.

Hobby Lobby is trying to fend off the federal government via the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that Democrats used to support before they realized how inconvenient it would prove to the Obama-era project of running roughshod over moral traditionalists.

The act says that government can’t substantially burden someone’s exercise of religion unless there’s a compelling governmental interest at stake and it’s pursued by the least restrictive means.

The contraception mandate fails on all counts, as Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has demonstrated in his incisive writings on the case.

The Obama administration has admitted that the mandate is a burden on religious exercise through its own regulatory actions. It exempted a small category of “religious employers” (e.g., churches) for just this reason.

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