Pause Before Ranting or Gloating

Some people believe that the United States is sliding toward American theocracy. Others claim that the country has been mortally infected by a godless secularism.

Some of the people who hold one or the other of those views have some well-thought out reasons for their positions. Many others, however, believe it because they have read someone else’s only-minimally-partially-accurate account of something or other.

I’ve been reading a lot of commentary in the news the last two days about the Supreme Court’s decision Monday morning in the Hobby Lobby case, which involved whether a Christian family-owned closely-held corporation could be compelled under the Affordable Care Act to provide coverage for certain forms of birth control that operate as abortifacients.

Sadly, much of the commentary on many popular on-line sites is being written by people who neither read the Supreme Court’s decision nor have any understanding of the legal issues involved in the case. Whether one likes the result or not, the reality is that the decision, which was decided on statutory and not on constitutional grounds, was fairly narrow in scope and is probably a correct decision as a matter of statutory interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 statute that had broad bipartisan support and that was signed by President Clinton.

I don’t want to here get into an extended analysis of what is incorrect in the various reports I’ve read of the opinion. My primary point here is simply to suggest that before anyone either jumps up and down with joy over the opinion or wrings their hands in agony – they read the Court’s opinions and/or talk to someone who understands what the legal issues were and what the Court actually decided.

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10 thoughts on “Pause Before Ranting or Gloating

  1. That is certainly the case, Diane. And I am all in favor of people discussing the merits of the opinion and what is or is not a correct interpretation of the statute. My comment is directed to the discourse I’ve seen that either (a) incorrectly states what the court said or (b) discusses it without regard to the legal issues the Court was actually deciding.

  2. yes. it has been all over the place. I appreciated Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s dissent piece, but it still means you have to read the actual decision, to know what it actually decides.

  3. This ruling reminded me of a meme I saw on Facebook two years ago, when the courts ruled on Obamacare. It said, “Brace yourself: every single person on Facebook is about to become an expert in constitutional law.” I think that, in addition to reading the decision, most people should admit that they are not experts in constitutional law, and therefore their opinions are just that; opinions.

  4. But the next day this decision was clarified for all contraceptives. Are you a Catholic conservative?

    ??. So sad that conformity to this decision means thoughtful people like you have declared for the extreme position.

    Really, no contraceptives?

    • You didn’t read my post very carefully, as there is nothing there that suggests I am “declar[ing] for the extreme position.”

      My point had nothing to do with contraceptives and everything to do with the fact that it is impossible to carry on meaningful debate based on inaccurate information. My intent was to encourage people to form views based on facts. I don’t know if you are friends with me on FB, but if you were you would see that on all sorts of issues I make comments that make that point: we cannot have meaningful debate without dealing with the facts as they are.

      Similarly, characterizing the decision as “probably correct as a matter of statutory interpretation” says nothing about how we should deal with the issue of contraception as a matter of public policy. But since neither the legal analysis nor contraception was not the thrust of my post, I did not wish to get into a long discussion of the law or public policy.

      I will not separately address your other two comments, which tend toward insult. You may form your own views of me based on what I have written here and elsewhere.

  5. BTW, I’m a tenured liberal at a Catholic university south of you. I’m not a moron. Trying to figure out if you’re simply a “family first” catholic, a pharisee, or someone morally serious. 🙂

    Do you discriminate against gays or not?

  6. No, of course not. Archbishop Nienstedt, notwithstanding. The gifts of God.

    Wake up! Wake up!

    Stop the moronic.

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