A prominent constitutional scholar will speak in Columbia Sunday on the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case and its implications for religious liberty.
Robert F. Cochran Jr., the Louis D. Brandeis professor of law and director of the Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics at Pepperdine University, will deliver his address as part of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church’s “Engaging the Culture” series.
“I’m going to trace the history of religious freedom in the United States right down to the point of the Hobby Lobby case,” Cochran said. “It is our first freedom in our First Amendment. It was the reason a great many people came to the United States.”
Cochran said he plans to expand on the impact of the June 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of the craft store Hobby Lobby, a closely held corporation whose founders have strong Christian beliefs. The company contended it should not have to pay for employee insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act, and sued.
The high court justices ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, basing their decision on a 1993 law passed by Congress, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Cochran was among a group of constitutional scholars who wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of the Hobby Lobby legal argument.
Opponents of the ruling suggest the decision expanded the rights of corporations to be treated like people, as well as infringed upon female employees’ health care decisions. Advocates contend the ruling was constitutional and offered only modest limitations to the ACA.
“I think the key issue is whether a person is allowed to bring their religious values into the marketplace and limit certain things they do as a business, whether incorporated or as an individual business,” Cochran said. “Just the fact that a business is a corporation shouldn’t limit their religious freedom that they exercise.”
He said the issue has generated more interest because of the passage of “religious freedom” bills in Indiana and Arkansas that generated protests and charges of discrimination.
The congregation at 5637 Bush River Road has launched a series of talks focusing on issues at the intersection of faith and politics. The 7 p.m. event is free and open to the public.
Cornerstone’s next event in the series will take place Nov. 16 when the church brings Princeton University professor Robert P. George to Columbia.