Why the Hobby Lobby Decision is a Victory for People of Faith and for Society
Guest Post by Daniel Ortner
The recent Hobby Lobby decision has been widely praised in the conservative media and greeted with deep alarm among the left. Yet, in reality the decision was a modest one that will likely have almost no impact on the employees of Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Wood. Indeed, the most likely outcome is that the government simply offers to religiously motivated for-profits the same accommodation that they are currently offering churches and religiously affiliated hospitals whereby upon certification of a religious objection, the health insurance providers cover contraception at no cost to the employer or employee.
So why is this case nevertheless a big deal? Why should members of the LDS Church and other people of faith celebrate the ruling? The threshold question in this case was whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which congress passed in the early 90’s to protect religious people of conscience applies to religiously motivated for-profit companies as well as churches and other people of conscience.
In other words, the key question is whether individuals who form for-profit entities lose the ability to assert religious freedom claims under the RFRA. For the dissent, because “an individual separates herself from the entity and escapes personal responsibility for the entity’s obligations,” by incorporation, that individual cannot argue that a government requirement violates his/her individual conscience. In other words, because the law removes personal liability from most business decisions, the dissent suggests that an individual should be expected to compartmentalize or separate his faith and his business activities.
The majority correctly recognizes that this is a false dichotomy. Individuals start corporations for a variety of reasons, with profit being just one among many motives. Some “[b]usiness practices . . .are compelled or limited by the tenets of a religious doctrine,”  other business activities seek “to perpetuate the religious values shared . . .by their owners.” Indeed, this is the natural outgrowth of our inherent right to religious freedom. As Justice Kennedy mentions in his concurrence, religious freedom includes not only the right to believe, but also “the right to express those beliefs and to establish one’s religious (or nonreligious) self-definition in the political, civic, and economic life of our larger community.” Indeed, as the majority notes the very reason that rights are extended to corporations “is to protect the rights of [the] people.” Separating the values of the corporation and the values of the owners is impossible because “Corporations, ‘separate and apart from’ the human beings who own, run, and are employed by them, cannot do anything at all.”
As I read the majority’s opinion, I was reminded of the powerful words of Elder Jeffery R. Holland a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Speaking regarding compartmentalizing our faith, he explained “ Lesson number one for the establishment of Zion in the 21st century: You never “check your religion at the door.” Not ever. My young friends, that kind of discipleship cannot be—it is not discipleship at all. As the prophet Alma has taught . . . we are “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in,” not just some of the time, in a few places.” In line with this truth, the Supreme Court majority recognized that conscience is not like an article of clothing that one can take off and put on at will, but instead something that will embody both the business and personal decisions of a owners of a business.
The Hobby Lobby decision is an immense victory because the majority refused to draw the arbitrary distinctions between Church, Non-profit, and business that the dissent would have imposed. Indeed, although not referenced in the opinion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is actually a great example of a church that helps straddle this line, as the church owns both for-profit and not-for-profit entities. The for-profit entities are still run based on church principles of stewardship and the profits are used to further the work of the Lord. Likewise, while Hobby Lobby’s owners seek to make a profit, they also seek to further their faith. Indeed, they close on Sundays and forgo the lucrative sale of certain objects such as shot glasses contrary to their faith. They pay for spiritual counseling for employees and support missionary work. Each year they take out full page ads around the holidays declaring that Jesus is the savior. As such, profit and proselytizing are mixed consistent with the owner’s religious values. As the Supreme Court recognized, by starting a business, an owner is not required to “pursue profit at the expense of everything else.”
Ultimately, I think the Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for a vision of society that liberals actually embrace. Indeed, companies such as Wal-Mart are routinely decried for putting profit above the interests of society and employees. Instead, companies are called upon to act “to further humanitarian and other altruistic objectives.” Liberals often for instance urge corporations to “take costly pollution-control and energy conservation measures that go beyond what the law requires,” based on principles of altruism. As the majority notes, a majority of states now recognize a new corporate entity a Beneficent Corporation (B. Corp) which is jointly dedicated to profit and the public good. Hobby Lobby acts based on religious rather than secular motives, but similarly acts out of a desire to bless and benefit others rather than simply accrue profit. The Supreme Court’s decision is thus ultimately respectful and supportive of this vision. The Supreme Court embraced society as it is, full of individuals acting out of a variety of motives both selfish and selfless. Thanks to the Supreme Court, companies such as Hobby Lobby and the families that own and manage them, need not choose between commerce and conscience, but instead may seek to both do well and do good. That is something that ultimately people of faith and all of us should be able to celebrate.
 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U. S. ____, 19 (2014) (Ginsburg J., dissenting).
 Id. at 21 (majority opinion).
 Id. at 22, n. 23.
 Id. at 2. (Kennedy J., concurring).
 Id. at 18 (majority opinion).
 Id. at 18–19.
 Id. at 23.