Friday, July 18, 2014

New Verdict Column: Businesses and Religion

-- Posted by Neil H. Buchanan

In my new Verdict column, I summarize many of the arguments in the "Hobby Lobby Post Mortem" series of 9 posts that Professor Dorf and I have written since June 30, adding some thoughts on why even reluctant businesses might feel pressured, post-Hobby Lobby, to "find religion."

Normally, a new Verdict column is accompanied by a Dorf on Law post, exploring in more detail one or more questions raised in the column.  Today is an exception to that rule, because I have nothing further to add here on Dorf on Law.  Interested readers can find the column here.  My Dorf on Law post for the day, addressing the politics of budgets and debt ceilings, is available immediately below (if you are viewing the main page of the blog) or here.


Shag from Brookline said...

Since Neil will not follow up on Hobby Lobby, those interested might check out Timothy Egan's NYTimes column "Faith-Based Fanatics" that focuses primarily internationally but closes with this:

"In the United States, God is on the currency. By brilliant design, though, he is not mentioned in the Constitution. The founders were explicit: This country would never formally align God with one political party, or allow someone to use religion to ignore civil laws. At least that was the intent. In this summer of the violent God, five justices on the Supreme Court seem to feel otherwise."

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egarber said...

Not sure how I can compete with the other comments, but :)

I’m intrigued by the possibility that RFRA itself might violate the establishment clause. A few thoughts:

1. Assuming that a neutral regulation meets a rational government need, does RFRA not elevate believers above non-believers, or other believers? Suppose a regulation offends my competitor, yet he can exclude himself from it via a religious exemption, while I bear the cost of the rule. Is that not a form of establishment, whereby law grants one special privilege specifically because of the individual’s religious affiliation?

2.It seems to me that RFRA unavoidably entangles government with religion, no matter the potential safeguards. How can a judge inquire into “sincerity” of belief without inquiring about the belief itself? Even if done carefully, that dynamic makes the government an arbiter of legitimacy in an intimately personal space. Drawing any lines places religion within the government’s “cognizance” (Madison).

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