The stupidest sentence in the article is this:Today, there's a notation at the bottom of the article that says: "Due to an editing error, some words were omitted from one of Paul Verrilli’s quotes. They have been restored." [ADDED: The New Yorker's correction gets Verrilli's first name wrong, commenter mccullough catches.]
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who was defending the law, invested heavily in the argument that for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby simply do not have rights to religious expression under the First Amendment.No, he didn't! Quite aside from the fact that he got nowhere with the argument that for-profit corporations should be treated differently from other corporations, the rights in question were not under the First Amendment. They came from a federal statute called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Toobin never mentions in his article!
What's "restored" is a reference to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, exactly the omission I'd pointed out. In the text of the article, the sentence after the sentence I called the stupidest now reads:
“It seems to me that it would be such a vast expansion of what Congress must—could have thought it was doing, in 1993, when it enacted R.F.R.A.—to say that for-profit corporations can make claims for religious exemptions to any laws of general application that they want to challenge,” he said, referring to a law on religious expression that Hobby Lobby had cited.Why would that quote have fit after the "stupidest sentence," the one that refers to "rights to religious expression under the First Amendment"? RFRA is not the First Amendment. It's a statute.
And that last clause, calling RFRA "a law on religious expression" seems like a desperate attempt to connect the quote to the "stupidest sentence." RFRA was an effort to undo a Supreme Court decision — Employment Division v. Smith — which was not about religious expression but "religiously motivated conduct." The opinion in Smith explicitly distinguished religious expression from religiously motivated conduct when it narrowed the interpretation of the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause — which is what motivated Congress to retaliate with RFRA.
So I am not buying that this was "an editing error" or that something that was originally in Toobin's text got "restored."
Toobin degraded the reputation of The New Yorker, which apparently no longer has an editing process capable of catching egregious mistakes in characterizing what is in a transcript that is right there to be seen by anyone with access to the web. The New Yorker used to seek out hard-to-find sources in what was a famous fact-checking process. We the readers trusted that. Here, it was easy to do one's own checking, and the error was beyond obvious.
Why is Toobin writing for The New Yorker? The only answer that comes to me is that the magazine is pandering to its readers, and I am insulted by the assumption that this is what we want.
UPDATE: More on the Donald/Paul screw up here.