The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Credit: AP/Matt Sayles)
On Monday morning, the Supreme Court finally released its much-anticipated decision on the Hobby Lobby case, a decision that lived up to expectations by being split along ideological lines (the court’s five conservatives overruling its four liberals) and severely weakening Obamacare’s birth control mandate.
Also living up to expectations? Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s blistering dissent, which excoriated the court’s majority for its ruling, describing it as a “radical” decision “of startling breadth” that would have chaotic and major unintended consequences. You can read her dissent in full here (it starts at page 60) but we’ve also compiled some of its best, key parts.
Ginsburg opens with a bang, immediately describing the decision as one that will have sweeping consequences:
In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
She frames the decision as one that denies women access to healthcare, rather than as one that upholds religious liberty:
The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.
In a similar vein, she rejects that the birth control mandate should be seen as an act of government coercion, describing it instead as one that provides women with the ability to make their own choice:
Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.
She affirms her belief that religious organizations and for-profit corporations serve fundamentally different purposes and have fundamentally different rights (and throws some shade at the majority in the process):
Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. … The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.
She claims that the majority has actually undermined the very principle, religious freedom, it claimed in its ruling to have upheld:
Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.
In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent.