Hobby Lobby and the Freedom To Be Wrong (Or Right)


I’ve been appalled at the criticisms leveled at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Hobby Lobby this week. Frank Schaeffer called it a “Victory For Ultra-Right Roman Catholic Co-Conspirators With Chuck Colson’s Ghost.” Brooklyn Magazine breathlessly , bemoaned, “Less Than Human: How the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision Reduces Women to Nothing More than Baby-Incubators.”

I could have listed dozens more reactions like those. They’ve got the whole thing wrong. I’m thankful they have the freedom to get things wrong. Are they?

There’s no hiding the fact that I support Hobby Lobby’s position with respect to abortifacients.* But this case wasn’t primarily about that. It was about freedom of conscience: the freedom to have an opinion, to express it, and to act on it according to one’s own convictions rather than government coercion.

Those who have called it a war on women or an attack on Obama himself (as Schaeffer said) have misunderstood this, but thankfully, they have the freedom to be wrong about that. We all have the freedom to be wrong. Because of this decision, Hobby Lobby and its owners have retained the freedom to be wrong. I think their position is right, but if I’m wrong, I’m grateful I have that freedom, too.

We should all be grateful, in fact. In a case like this one, remember, the freedom to be wrong is equivalent to the freedom to disagree with what the government says, based on deeply held convictions of conscience. It’s our most basic and essential freedom, without which our democracy would be a tyranny instead.

You’d think that those who call themselves “liberals” would favor liberty of that sort.

I wish all my fellow Americans an early Happy Independence Day.

*Despite reports the contrary, Hobby Lobby never refused to pay for contraception. Their issue was only with drugs that end pregnancies already begun.