Editor's note: Springtime snow fell on demonstrators outside the Supreme Court this week as lawyers battled inside over Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. Matt Bowman serves as senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Conestoga Wood Specialties, co-defendant with Hobby Lobby in the case. Nick Eicher interviewed Bowman shortly after oral arguments concluded on Tuesday.
Can you tell me about what went on inside the Supreme Court? Any surprises? I think what was most prominent for me in the arguments was the extreme concern that many of the justices had for the idea being proposed by the government that when a family tries to earn a living for itself in business, somehow it abandons its constitutional rights, and it has no freedom to live and work according to its faith. That was the main theme of the arguments, and it occupied many of the justices’ questions.
One of the points of emphasis is both the Greens, [owners] of Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, [owners] of Conestoga Wood Specialties, objected to specific forms of birth control that they reason are abortifacient in nature. Would you say that it is also important for those who are Roman Catholic and go with the church’s teaching on artificial birth control? It is an issue, and it’s even broader than that. … Justice [Anthony] Kennedy and other justices were concerned about the fact that the government’s position here is so extreme that it would allow the government to coerce people to provide any kind of abortion, and those people would have no ability, if they were running a for-profit business, to object to the government’s coercion.
What do you think the health insurance landscape will look if you win a favorable decision? I see things looking quite different for what the government would be able to do. If the court rules in our favor, there will be a beachhead, a preserve, of religious freedom beyond which even the bloated … federal government cannot encroach.
Do you think that this case will have bearing on the many other religious liberty cases working their way through the system now? … I’m thinking businesses and, for example, same-sex wedding ceremonies? Well, this is a case that’s specifically about: Can the government go to such an extreme that it can even force people to buy abortion products for others. That’s what the government’s rationale would justify, in this case. How that would apply in other circumstances, the court is going to have to decide, but I think it is worthwhile to note that there’s now an attempt to declare that anything that is a so-called right, suddenly all Americans can be coerced to participate in it. It’s not even good enough that these things be legal. That is a very dangerous trend that we’re seeing across a lot of issues, and that’s the trend that the government wants to succeed on in this case. It’s why it’s important that the government not succeed in that idea.
Listen to the full discussion between Bowman and Eicher on The World and Everything in It: