On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two big cases about religious freedom and contraception coverage, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius. Both cases ask the same question: Can the Affordable Care Act require for-profit companies to include contraception in their employee insurance plans, even if the owners think using birth control is morally wrong?
The intense back-and-forth between the justices and the lawyers who made arguments revealed that this question is incredibly complex, involving a lot of case law and, as one lawyer put it, some "loosey-goosey analysis."
But one of the more interesting, somewhat hidden questions is whether a justice can trade her robe for a cassock. As Sonia Sotomayor pointed out, the court has traditionally refrained from trying to figure out what's in someone's heart—if a person claims to have a certain belief, the court takes that claim at face value. But she also pointed out that this makes it nearly impossible to determine whether a company like Conestoga Wood or Hobby Lobby is actually "religious."
"Let's assume a business that sells five percent of religious books, doesn't play Christmas music, doesn't give off ... Sunday, you know, does nothing else religiously," Sotomayor said. "That's the most dangerous piece. That's the one we've resisted in all our exercise jurisprudence: to measure the depth of someone's religious beliefs."