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Politico Has No Idea What the Hobby Lobby Decision Was Even About

hobby lobbyQuickly: what was it that Hobby Lobby objected to doing that spurred their lawsuit against the Obama administration? If you said something about birth control, congratulations, you’re more up to date on politics than one of the nation’s leading political newspapers.

Here’s how Politico’s Glenn Thrush characterized the decision in a profile of former Jeb Bush staffer Tim Miller (who is gay).

“Jeb and I were talking about Hobby Lobby,” Miller said — referring to the Supreme Court case that exempted the craft chain from some anti-LGBT laws, including a provision requiring that employers provide health plans to gay and lesbians.

Thrush was simply dead wrong. What Hobby Lobby objected to was providing certain forms of contraception its owners believed could prevent implantation, a violation of their faith. They never once suggested that they had any problem providing healthcare to their gay employees.

Not to mention the confusing double negative. Hobby Lobby was “exempted” from “anti-LGBT laws”? So… they they had to provide healthcare to gays and lesbians? What does that even mean?

When the mistake was pointed out on Twitter, Thrush responded that he would correct it, and maintained that he simply “shorthanded it.” (Again, he didn’t shorthand it so much as getting the central issue completely wrong).

Here was the corrected version.

“Jeb and I were talking about Hobby Lobby,” Miller said — referring to the Supreme Court case that raised Constitutional questions about the rights of localities to enact religious freedom laws, like the Indiana bill.

The problem is that Thrush’s correction was also wrong; Hobby Lobby had absolutely nothing to do with state RFRAs.

What the Court ruled is that closely-held for-profit corporations can challenge infringements on their owners’ religious freedoms under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the same way that nonprofit corporations can. Dozens of state RFRAs were already in place before the decision, and even opponents don’t really question that states have a constitutional “right” to pass those laws.

Finally, we come to the current version:

“Jeb and I were talking about Hobby Lobby,” Miller said — referring to the Supreme Court case that raised Constitutional questions about the employer’s rights to deny contraception to employees.”

…which is also wrong.

First of all, like all previous versions it states that the case raised “Constitutional questions.” Not really; the question at hand was the interpretation of a specific statute, not the First Amendment or the Constitution.

I would also take issue with the language saying that Hobby Lobby wanted the right to “deny” contraception. It’s well in line with the trendy liberal definition of “deny,” where oppressed individuals are “denied” things by virtue of other people not paying for them. But Hobby Lobby only denied their employees contraception in the sense that Dan Abrams is currently denying me a PS4.

More importantly, it’s very misleading to say Hobby Lobby wanted to deny “contraception,” full stop. Hobby Lobby had no problem paying for their employees’ contraception and continues to do so. They only had problem with four specific drugs of the twenty the Obama administration mandated they provide. So yeah, those employees weren’t even “denied” the right to contraception, just the ability to pick the very, very specific form of contraception they wanted.

But of course, Thrush only ever said the Hobby Lobby case “raised questions,” so technically all three versions were accurate. Unfortunately, the questions raised are more along the lines of “Why on earth did Politico think Hobby Lobby was about denying gay people medicine?”
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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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