You are here

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

March 22, 2014

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.