That is, of all the Supreme Court Justices who have resisted constitutional arguments for giving special exemptions for religion, the first name on your list should be Antonin Scalia!
But Linda Greenhouse's piece ends:
If the court grants the exemption the companies seek, its decision will most likely come packaged as an exercise in statutory interpretation. Only the old culture warrior, Antonin Scalia, can be counted on to acknowledge the deeper issues in play. But those issues will be there nonetheless, and that’s what makes these cases so compelling.Packaged as an exercise in statutory interpretation? It is an exercise in statutory interpretation.
Without the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, there would be vanishingly little hope for an exemption. Employment Division v. Smith would almost surely determine that the federal government's law binds everyone in the same way. And you'd be able to thank Justice Scalia for his crisp, hard-core rule that lets legislators do things like that and keeps the judiciary in restraint.
Greenhouse knows all that. She refers and links to Smith, though she doesn't mention that Scalia wrote it. She knows the legal claim is based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It's as if there's some secret NYT rulebook that says: When writing about the Supreme Court, always attack Scalia.
The Greenhouse idea is to say this case is really about sex, because opposition to birth control and abortion is really about sex, and then Scalia is supposedly a "culture warrior" on sex issues. But even if you could accept that opposition to abortion and birth control is really about sex, what does Scalia care about sex? He's not a culture warrior! To say so is to distort the opinions of his that accuse other members of the Court of taking sides in the culture war. When he makes that accusation, he's promoting judicial restraint and deference to democratic decisionmaking. Sometimes that restraint manifests itself in cases where legislatures have done things like criminalize sodomy or restrict abortion, so he'd stand back and let social conservatives win. But that would not be because he's a "culture warrior." He's a committed pacifist, looking on, letting the victors in the legislative battle keep their spoils.
But the Hobby Lobby case isn't about narrowly interpreting the Constitution to let legislative majorities have their way. It's a conflict between 2 statutes, and it was absolutely not Antonin Scalia who encouraged giving religious exemptions. It was Congress, which was reacting to Scalia's rejection of constitutional exemptions. The RFRA bill was sponsored in the House by Congressman Chuck Schumer and in the Senate by Teddy Kennedy. (Each had a GOP co-sponsor). The Democrats controlled Congress, but the Republicans all voted for it too (with the sole exception of Jesse Helms).
From the NYT article in 1993 when President Bill Clinton signed RFRA into law:
President Clinton hailed the new law at the signing ceremony, saying that it held government "to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone's free exercise of religion."...This is about statutes and the politicos who produce them, not the judges who stand back and let them trip all over themselves pandering to everyone. If the Congress that passed the Affordable Care Act had wanted to exempt it from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it could have done so explicitly. It did not. Why should the Court cut back Congress's absurdly broad RFRA to help it out with what it failed to bother to do with the ACA?
President Clinton voiced wonder today at this alliance of forces that are often at odds across religious or ideological lines. "The power of God is such that even in the legislative process miracles can happen," he said.
Congress deserves another kick in the ass like the one the unanimous Supreme Court gave it in O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Unio do Vegetal (letting a religious group use the psychedelic drug hoasca despite the ever-so-important federal statute, the Controlled Substances Act).