Until this past week, I had never set foot in a Hobby Lobby store, and the first impression I had when I entered the Morehead City store was that it was enormous. It was also not what I expected. There were no lavish displays of model electric trains, no section for battery powered remote-controlled model dune buggies, model boats, model airplanes, helicopters, or quadrocopters, not even a telescope for a harmless bit of stargazing.
But there was other stuff, lots of other stuff. The second thing I noticed after walking in was, off to my right, a very large area devoted to the display of artificial flowers. Being in firm possession of a Y chromosome, I do not have much interest in flowers, artificial or otherwise, so I moved on. I saw sewing and knitting supplies, picture framing materials, art supplies, even some ready-made doll houses, and as I continued wandering about the store, my amazement grew at what I would characterize as the largest inventory of household knick-knacks in the universe. And yes, there were some religious items, but not significantly more than you would find at a Target or Wal-Mart, in my opinion.
I went to the store in order to learn a little about the nature of the retail chain that has become the center of a controversial case that was argued just this past week in front of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The case is Sebelius versus Hobby Lobby Stores, and in combination with the similar Conestoga Wood Specialties versus Sebelius suit, it presented to the Justices the question of whether a business can be forced by the government to provide health insurance coverage to it’s employees when that coverage will encompass goods and/or services to which the business ownership objects on religious grounds. In this case the objectional “goods and/or services” are contraceptives, which are mandated by ObamaCare.
Based on how most Court observers assess the arguments, the ruling on this case (expected in June) will be decided on a 5/4 split with Justice Kennedy as the swing vote. No one knows which arguments the Court will find more persuasive, but for more information and detail, check out these links to three articles reporting on the oral arguments before the Court last Tuesday. The first, HERE, is a recap from SCOTUSBlog legal journalist Lyle Denniston. The second, HERE, is from Sarah Torre posting in a Q-&-A format at the online National Review, and the third, HERE, is a posting by law professor Eugene Volokh in which he presents a technical analysis of the core arguments in the case.
I’m rooting for the conservative side to prevail, for two reasons. First, because it would be the right outcome on constitutional grounds, and second, because it would be another serious wound for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.