What a Conservative Gets Wrong About Liberals

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Jonathan Tobin, a writer for the Commentary, recently argued that ‘Liberals’ hold a contradictory stance regarding the rights of corporations, which has become evident with the Hobby Lobby and Mozilla cases. (To read more about Hobby Lobby’s attempt to overturn the contraception mandate of Obama care check out this article.)

So what are liberals saying about the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius? They point to historical precedence as the reason why Hobby Lobby’s argument fails. In the past, federal courts have ruled that corporations cannot avoid the law based on religious beliefs, for the simple reason of the bright line problem. Simply, how far can corporations go, in terms of ‘breaking’ the law, to uphold religious beliefs? NPR points out that,

The Justice Department says in its briefs that the government would be unable to function if religious beliefs could be the basis for corporations’ refusing to comply with generally applied laws — be they child labor laws, immunization laws, laws that mandate serving racially mixed groups [etc…]

This is a serious problem with the Hobby Lobby’s argument, because by similar logic and certain unreasonableness, it could entail phenomena like segregated service. (Which is by no coincidence being attempted in certain states with regards to gays.) Thus, liberals want to protect the ‘generally applied laws’, which in this case happens to be health care.

Tobin goes on to argue that by making this argument against Hobby Lobby, liberals clearly contradict themselves when they claim that Mozilla ought to fire Mr. Eich, for the simple reason that he donated $1000 to Proposition 8. (Mr. Eich has since resigned, however it is important to understand that people called for him to be fired). What might a liberal say about this? Someone who promotes intolerant policies should not be leading and representing such a powerful company like Mozilla.

Are these liberal stances in contradiction? Tobin argues yes. He claims that “a corporation ought not enforce its religious beliefs regarding abortion” and “a corporation ought enforce a tolerant belief system” are hypocritical stances. At first glance, it may appear that Tobin has a point. How can liberals contend that corporations should not enforce their religious beliefs, but yet enforce other beliefs, like the fact that Eich’s comments are unacceptable?

The problem with Tobin’s argument is that he is leaving out one critical distinction between the Mozilla and Hobby Lobby cases. Regarding the Hobby Lobby issue, liberals are contending that the company should not be granted legal privilege on the grounds of religion in order to enforce their beliefs. The force of the liberals’ argument here is agreeing with and enforcing the law, and thus, this can be seen as a form of legal pressure against Hobby Lobby. In the case of Mr. Eich at Mozilla, the liberal is simply expressing their opinion that a ‘respectable company’ would refrain from appointing CEO’s who contribute to — in their eyes — hateful and intolerant campaigns such as Proposition 8. The difference here, as compared to the Hobby Lobby case, is that the force of the liberal’s argument is an appeal to moral intuition, and this can be seen as social pressure.

The liberal stance regarding Mozilla and Hobby Lobby is not a hypocritical one as Tobin would have us believe. Once we make the distinction between legal pressure, in the case of Hobby Lobby, and social pressure in the case of Mozilla, it should be clear that the liberal’s position is quite tenable. Further more we should value the liberal’s distinct positions, as they represent the proper workings of a flourishing democracy. I am beginning to notice a frightening trend, that as our society continues to polarize, the parties may begin to try and legislate all of their view-points in order to have the ability to argue them with legal pressure. For instance, South Carolina’s attempt to expand their “Stand Your Ground” laws to fetuses, which in effect, would redefine the personhood status of fetuses. Instead of attempting to prevent something like abortion through social pressure, they will attempt to do so through legal pressure. Anybody who cares about freedom should be concerned about this trend.

[Commentary] [NPR] 

Bo Donoghue

Featured Image Courtesy of: [Flickr/Ken Teegarden]

Bo Donoghue
Bo Donoghue is a student at The George Washington University. Contact Bo at



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