On Tuesday, the New York Times ran an editorial criticizing U.S. District Judge John Kane’s decision in one of the HHS Contraception Mandate cases, Newland v. Sebelius. Judge Kane issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the mandate against a corporation, Hercules Industries. The Times believes this ruling misreads the Constitution:
There is no constitutional precedent for individuals, much less corporations, allowing them to violate generally applicable laws because they may have a religious objection. Conversely, the company’s claim that its owners or officers have a First Amendment right to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporation’s employees is groundless. The health insurance mandate does not place a substantial burden on religious exercise, so a federal statute protecting such exercise should not be in play.
Some of this critique is wrong, some is sloppy, and some is debatable. But the key problem is that the critique is entirely inapposite. As my colleague Marc explained last week, Judge Kane expressly declined to address the corporation’s constitutional claims. He based his ruling solely on plaintiff’s RFRA argument. If you’re going to criticize a judicial opinion, you really should read it first. (H/t: John McGinnis)