The Purpose Driven Sentence – Rick Warren Exposes the Flaw in Hobby Lobby’s Challenge to the ACA

In an op-ed in Saturday’s Washington Post, Pastor Rick Warren claims that the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act violates the religious freedom of the Green family that owns the multibillion-dollar, for-profit corporation called Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.  Much has been written about why this is not so (including here by my colleague David Gans), but now Warren’s op-ed itself unwittingly exposes the gaping hole in the Greens’ legal theory.   According to Warren:

“Two years ago, the Greens’ commitment to practicing their religious convictions in their family business required that they object to just a few of the contraceptives the government requires providing to employees under the Affordable Care Act.”

“The government requires providing”?  Requires of whom?  Rather awkward writing by a best-selling author.  A more clearly written sentence explaining what the ACA actually does would say:

“Two years ago, the Greens’ commitment to practicing their religious convictions in their family business required that they object to just a few of the contraceptives the government requires that Hobby Lobby provide to its employees under its group health insurance plan.”

Warren’s carefully crafted sentence slides right over the fact that the ACA imposes no legal obligations on the Greens themselves, only on the corporate entity Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.  

This is hardly a distinction without a difference.  Individuals who own corporations are given many privileges that individuals running an unincorporated business simply do not enjoy, such as immunity from personal liability for the debts and obligations of the business, which is why so many business owners choose to incorporate.  

The Greens themselves made that choice and elected to incorporate Hobby Lobby Stores.   Now, however, they would like Hobby Lobby to enjoy the privileges of incorporation but without all of the obligations imposed on other for-profit corporations.  That seems a pretty clear sentence to write.  

More from

Corporate Accountability
 

Intuit, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission

In Intuit Inc v. Federal Trade Commission, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is considering whether the FTC’s authority to issue cease-and-desist orders against false and misleading advertising is constitutional.
Rule of Law
June 20, 2024

Opinion | The tragedy of the Supreme Court’s bump stock ruling

Washington Post
Don’t let technicalities, or a refusal to use common sense, become the enemy of public...
By: Nina Henry
Access to Justice
June 20, 2024

RELEASE: Supreme Court rejects artificial limit on liability for speech-based retaliation by government officers

WASHINGTON, DC – Following today’s Supreme Court decision in Gonzalez v. Trevino, a case in...
By: Brian R. Frazelle
Civil and Human Rights
June 20, 2024

RELEASE: Supreme Court decision keeps the door open to accountability for police officers who make false charges

WASHINGTON, DC – Following this morning’s decision at the Supreme Court in Chiaverini v. City...
By: Brian R. Frazelle
Corporate Accountability
June 20, 2024

RELEASE: In narrow ruling, Supreme Court rejects baseless effort to shield corporate-derived income from taxation

WASHINGTON, DC – Following this morning’s decision at the Supreme Court in Moore v. United...
By: Brian R. Frazelle
Rule of Law
June 19, 2024

The Supreme Court’s approach on ‘history and tradition’ is irking Amy Coney Barrett

CNN
Washington (CNN) — On a Supreme Court where the conservative supermajority increasingly leans on history as a...
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra, Devan Cole, John Fritze