The court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act forbids the administration from forcing Hobby Lobby -- an arts-and-crafts chain owned by evangelical Christians -- to cover contraceptives that its owners object to on religious grounds (specifically, four drugs that it believes act as abortifacients).
If you don't see the anti-women agenda at work in this decision, you aren't as discerning as the hysterics on the left who point out, accusingly, that the five justices in the majority are all men. QED.
Sen. Harry Reid, displaying his unfailing instinct for the inane, tweeted, "It's time that five men on the Supreme Court stop deciding what happens to women." The majority leader seems to believe that the court was deliberating in the case of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al. v. The Fate of Women's Freedom in the United States.
The ruling was quite limited. It didn't strike down the contraception mandate, and as such is only a small carve-out from the sweeping extension of government power represented by the mandate. The decision only says that the mandate can't apply to Hobby Lobby and other closely held corporations (defined by the IRS as firms where five or fewer individuals hold 50 percent or more of the value of the corporation) that oppose it on religious grounds.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in the 1990s with large bipartisan majorities, created a broad protection for religious liberty. It says that government can't create a substantial burden on someone's exercise of religion unless it is using the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest. The court held that there are less restrictive means for the government to get women the drugs in question, including paying for them directly rather than forcing Hobby Lobby to cover them.
The cry from the left is that this constitutes the end of women's "health" as we know it. Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama "believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves, rather than their bosses deciding for them." Taking this non sequitur and running with it, Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, opined that the decision "takes us closer to a time in history when women had no choice and no voice."
Of course, Hobby Lobby doesn't have the power to deny its employees the drugs it finds objectionable, nor does it claim such a power. Women who work for the company can buy them on their own. For that matter, Hobby Lobby doesn't claim the right to stop them from having abortions. The women who work for Hobby Lobby have exactly as much "choice" now as they did prior to the decision.
The left can't get its head around the idea that the law or the Constitution sometimes limits the means whereby it seeks to achieve its ends. The left doesn't really do law. It often doesn't even do reasoning. It does bullying and demagoguery. In the argument over Hobby Lobby, it has brought the logic of the "war on women" -- its shameless smear job -- to the Supreme Court.
There are numerous lawful ways around the Hobby Lobby decision. If it wants to get at the root of the matter, Congress can carve out an exception from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for the contraception mandate, or repeal the act in its entirety. Surely, if liberal lions like Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton had foreseen how the act would eventually get in the way of the left's coercive cultural agenda, they never would have supported it in the first place.
But finding a way to eviscerate or kill the act is for another day. For now, inveighing against the sexist Supreme Court is the priority.
(Daily Corinthian columnist Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)