WCP: Neil Gorsuch and Religious Liberty: Class Dismissed

Posted in Visiting Scholars  |  Tagged , , , , , , , , ,


Neil Gorsuch was nominated to be a Supreme Court Justice largely because of his concern for religious liberty. Yet as Ken Estey explains in this week’s Working-Class Perspective, Gorsuch has prioritized the religious freedom of large corporations over the religious rights of thousands of their workers.

“Hobby Lobby has over 500 stores and almost 13,000 full-time employees, and Mardel has thirty-five Christian bookstores and almost 400 employees. The owners, David and Barbara Green and their three children, believe that “human life begins when sperm fertilizes an egg” and that it is “immoral” to “facilitate any act that causes the death of a human embryo.” The application of the doctrine of religious liberty here means that the religious beliefs of five corporate owners take precedence over the beliefs and interests of nearly 13,400 workers in 535 stores across the country. Further, the ruling grants religious freedom to the corporation, giving it legal status as a “person” whose rights must be protected as well. The court reasoned that as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires, generally, that the “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” and that “[s]uch corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes of the statute.”

Neil Gorsuch’s concurring opinion focuses, in particular, on the Green family. Affirming the reasoning of Judge Tymkovich above, Gorsuch emphasizes the importance of the Green family’s religious claims to the exclusion of any other parties, including their entire work force for whom access to low or no-cost contraceptive services could have very favorable consequences, morally, economically and otherwise.”

Read the post in its entirety (new window) and explore other Working-Class Perspectives posts on our website.

The Working-Class Perspectives blog (new window) is brought to you by our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, and Georgetown University English professor, Sherry Linkon, who authored this post. It features several regular and guest contributors. Last year, the blog published 44 posts that were read over 128,000 times by readers in 189 countries.