I discussed it yesterday at Cato at Liberty, shortly before Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill. My Cato colleague Ilya Shapiro’s thoughts are here. For those who want a deeper dive, here’s the Douglas Laycock-drafted letter on the bill in its entirety, and here is the student note he cites making a case for courts’ application of RFRA to private lawsuits. (& welcome visitors: Ramesh Ponnuru, Paul Mirengoff, Stephen Richer/Purple Elephant, Memeorandum, Hans Bader)
P.S. To clarify, the Arizona bill would have enacted into law as part of the state’s mini-RFRA two broad applications of RFRA that many courts have been unwilling to concede to advocates heretofore. One is its availability as a defense in private litigation, not just in discrimination complaints but across the entire range of legal disputes arising in some way from state (in this case) law. That’s potentially a broad intervention into otherwise available private rights, and the fact that it’s in no way limited to discrimination law is one reason I would foresee that it would wind up having some surprising or unintended consequences along the line. A second broad application which drew fire from some critics would be to make available to businesses and various other nonprofit and associational forms of organization the defenses and other remedies otherwise available to individuals. I noted in this post a few weeks ago a high-profile case in which a panel of the D.C. Circuit, parting company from the Fifth, declined to recognize business coverage under the federal RFRA.
Ilya Shapiro sorts out the issues for SCOTUSblog. Earlier here.
As I explain in a new Cato post, Eugene Volokh has been blogging this week on the proper role of the courts in recognizing or ignoring religious law, whether Christian, Jewish, or Islamic. Oklahoma passed a measure banning by name the use of Islamic sharia law, but the Tenth Circuit struck that law down as discriminating against a particular religion. Meanwhile, lawmakers in other states have introduced legislation on the subject. Earlier.
The Cato Institute has submitted an amicus brief in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases, which test the extent to which the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment restrain the federal government from requiring employers to participate in employee benefit arrangements that violate the conscience of the individuals who own and run the company. More on the other amicus briefs from Rick Garnett at PrawfsBlawg and commenters. Prof. Bainbridge takes issue with a brief signed by a group of law professors on whether a corporate enterprise can be treated as an alter ego for its owners for purposes of imputing to it their rights (“reverse veil piercing”), and has some further thoughts on the legal principle — sometimes ideologically contested, but seldom in a consistent way — of corporate personhood. Related earlier here.
Slate really embarrassed itself the other day with a column by Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick flatly misreporting the holding of a Janice Rogers Brown opinion on religious liberty and Obamacare. I wrote this piece in response, which just appeared at PowerLine.
More: West Coast politics and law blogger Patterico likes my piece. Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center writes on Twitter to say that a post he wrote on Saturday “seems to be what triggered [the] weak correction.”
“Exhibiting a complete lack of common sense, the city’s Human Rights Commission is determined to take seven Hasidic-owned stores in Brooklyn to trial for the high crime of requiring modest dress of their customers.” Signs the HRC deems “discriminatory” include “No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Necklines Allowed.” [editorial, New York Post] But shops catering to a secular clientele routinely post demands that their customers button up: no shirt/socks/shoes, no service, business attire only, and so forth. “Which means the city is targeting the Hasidic stores because of religion!” [Ann Althouse]
I’ve got a letter in the WSJ:
In claiming that “Gay Marriage Collides With Religious Liberty” (Houses of Worship, Sept. 20), Mollie Ziegler Hemingway conflates the effects of antidiscrimination law with the effects of recognizing same-sex marriage. Many of the conscience cases she cites involving private businesses arose in jurisdictions that don’t recognize gay marriage, and most would reach the same legal result so long as local antidiscrimination laws remain in place, whether or not the law on marriage has changed….
I go on to note that anti-discrimination law for years now has been obliging some small businesspeople to enter business dealings inconsistent with their private conscience, as when bed and breakfasts are obliged to accommodate unmarried cohabitants, or owners of print or video-duplication shops are obliged to duplicate literature promoting causes they abhor, whether religious or secular. So far as I can tell, we libertarians are the only group that has consistently raised alarms over the years about this coercive effect; most social conservatives have tended to ignore the area until quite recently, and of course the typical position of modern progressives is to see few if any real issues of concern here. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, I should note, says I wrongly assumed that she writes from outside the libertarian tradition; Twitter exchange on that here.
Some recent links on these controversies: Elane Photography (New Mexico) and followup; Oregon cake bakers; Arlington, Va. video-duplication shop, first, second, and third posts. I wrote about the relations between religious liberty, libertarianism, and social conservatism here (more, and yet more on Twitter with columnist Tim Carney). More: Bainbridge, Stephen Miller/Independent Gay Forum.
The University of Minnesota law professor and Volokh Conspiracy contributor sorts out claims that the pending bill in his state threatens religious liberty. [St. Paul Pioneer Press]
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has been soliciting testimony and public comments on the issue, and is holding a hearing on March 22, Friday of next week. [Peter Kirsanow; Marc DeGirolami, Mirror of Justice; Ed Whelan, Ethics and Public Policy Center]
Steve Chapman puts them in perspective, and commenters at the conservative Town Hall site freak out. Then a donnybrook breaks out at National Review, with Matthew Schmitz, Ramesh Ponnuru and Schmitz again advancing the view that religious liberty means liberty for everyone, even Muslims who might wish (say) to enter contracts for a religiously grounded non-interest-yielding savings account.
Speaking of religious liberty, my discussion with Tim Carney and David Boaz last week about whether libertarians are somehow deficient on the topic continues to yield interesting reactions, including one from Rick Esenberg.