Acton Institute Powerblog

Hobby Lobby Reaction Speaks to Future of Religious Liberty

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Regarding the Hobby Lobby decision and the Supreme Court, I believe the National Review editors summed it up best: “That this increase in freedom makes some people so very upset tells us more about them than about the Court’s ruling.”

I address this rapid politicization and misunderstanding of religious liberty and natural rights in today’s Acton commentary. The vitriolic reaction to the ruling is obviously not a good sign for religious liberty and we’re almost certainly going to continue down the path of losing rights of conscience and free expression. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong. But I wanted to step back and take a more comprehensive look at where we are now.

One point I make in the piece is that our federal lawmakers no longer hold a consensus to protect religious liberty, as they did with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Back then, there was overwhelming unification and bipartisanship to protect and strengthen religious liberty, that is a thing of the past and it has been swallowed up by partisan politics. Our collective partisan politics is becoming bigger than our once common understanding of natural rights.

Another point I stress is that there is an obvious difference on the very meaning of religious liberty that cuts through our country. This is well known to those who pay attention to these issues. Many saw the Hobby Lobby ruling not as a ruling in favor of the rights of conscience and liberty, but only a temporary setback in divorcing religion from public human affairs.

The Supreme Court ruling is being politicized in a myriad of vicious ways and that by itself is a bad sign for religious liberty. It will be a tough task going forward to educate people on the necessity of a vibrant understanding of religious liberty and natural rights that promotes the common good.

Ray Nothstine is opinion editor of the the North State Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.


  • crossdotcurve

    “Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k).”

    – Washington Post

    • Marc Vander Maas

      So let’s assume that this is completely true, that there is no mitigating evidence in existence that would demonstrate that the Green family was unaware of this practice or doesn’t control how the money in these funds are invested, etc. In other words, let’s assume that this is evidence of hypocrisy on the part of the Green family. Is your contention that people who evidence some form of hypocrisy in their life are left without Constitutional protection?

  • John Smith

    When Pharoah yielded to the first set of plagues, (the plagues themselves composed of symbols of the pagan Egyptian gods), he allowed the Hebrews limited leave to go out to worship, but only within the borders of Egypt, not far out beyond the confines of his control and in freedom from obligations to work on the Sabbath. It took the destruction of his patrimony, the death of his firstborn son, before he would relent–temporarily–to allow the children of Israel to render to God His due.