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July 18, 2013 5:15 PM Can For-Profit Corporations Have a “Religious Conscience?”

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve only had a chance to quickly read Sarah Posner’s important new article at TAP on the ongoing litigation involving the craft store Hobby Lobby, which is claiming an exception to elements of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate on grounds that compliance would violate the company’s religious “conscience,” and thus deny its First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion.

Hobby Lobby’s suit is the spear-point of a broader effort to extend religious exemptions from religious organizations and their affiliated non-profit operations (e.g., schools, hospitals and charities) to anyone and any entity claiming a religious mission or threatened religious values. The company has already won a Tenth Circuit decision in its favor, amidst passionate dissents claiming the Court is dangerously using the Citizens United precedent to extend the idea of “free speech” for corporations to other First Amendment rights—in this case, religious expression and observance. The case is sure to arrive in the Supreme Court before long, where it is likely to generate a landmark decision either way.

Aside from examining the constitutional issues, Posner’s article provides fascinating background on Hobby Lobby as a leading example of conservative evangelical “Christian capitalism” in action, and how the case fits into the larger fight for and against ever-expanding religious exemptions from laws binding on everyone else—including anti-discrimination laws.

Sarah Posner’s long been one of our country’s best reporters and analysts on the intersection of religion and politics—particularly the intersection where conservative evangelicals have been so active in recent years. This piece will definitely add luster to her reputation. Check it out.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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