The Merits and Flaws of the Hobby Lobby Decision
Society of Fellows Lunch Lecture with Professors Josh Hawley and Frank Bowman
The Kinder Forum co-sponsored an October 7 lunch discussion between University of Missouri Law Professors Frank Bowman and Joshua Hawley about the landmark 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. The discussion focused largely on the Supreme Court’s application of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the decision’s place in the ongoing debate regarding for-profit corporations’ legal status as persons. In addressing these two central issues, Professor Hawley argued that the ruling was both consistent with recent interpretations of the constitutional rights of corporate entities and correct in its assertion that the accommodation of Hobby Lobby’s religious liberty interest did not burden the constitutional rights of third parties. The decision, he concluded, was not only a rather unremarkable application of the RFRA, but also, and more importantly, a re-affirmation of the Constitution’s commitment to protecting religious pluralism. In response, Prof. Bowman first presented an argument against corporate personhood as it relates to religious liberty under the RFRA, and followed this by challenging the Court’s application of the RFRA’s “compelling interest” and “least restrictive means” standards to the Hobby Lobby case. Ensuring women’s access to health care under the terms of the Affordable Care Act constitutes, he argued, a “pragmatic necessity” that in no way interferes with the Hobby Lobby owners’ right to free religious exercise. A brief Q&A followed the lecture, which was held in Hulston Hall on the MU campus and sponsored by the Kinder Forum in partnership with the University of Missouri Law School’s American Constitution Society, Federalist Society, and Healthcare Law & Policy Club.
Professor Joshua Hawley served on the legal team that successfully represented Hobby Lobby before the U.S. Supreme Court. Professor Hawley joined the School of Law in 2011 after several years in the national appellate practice of Hogan Lovells US LLP, in Washington, DC. At Hogan, Professor Hawley briefed cases in seven federal circuit courts, numerous state courts and the Supreme Court of the United States. His practice spanned multiple fields of law, including the First Amendment, copyright, ERISA and criminal law. Professor Hawley has also served as senior counsel to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where he litigated ground-breaking First Amendment cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, in the federal circuit courts and state courts of last resort. Professor Hawley is a former clerk to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. of the Supreme Court of the United States and Michael W. McConnell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. While in law school, Professor Hawley served as articles editor for The Yale Law Journal. Professor Hawley is the author of Theodore Roosevelt: Preacher of Righteousness, published by Yale University Press, and of numerous scholarly and popular essays on the American Progressives.
Professor Frank Bowman joined the School of Law in 2005 from the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, where he served as the M. Dale Palmer Professor of Law. Following his graduation from Harvard Law School in 1979, Professor Bowman entered the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the Honor Graduate Program. He spent three years as a trial attorney in the Criminal Division in Washington, D.C. From 1983 until 1986, he was a deputy district attorney for Denver, Colo. He also spent three years in private practice in Colorado. In 1989, Professor Bowman joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, where he was Deputy Chief of the Southern Criminal Division and specialized in complex white-collar crimes. In 1995 and 1996, he served as Special Counsel to the U.S. Sentencing Commission in Washington, D.C. From 1998 to 2001, he served as academic advisor to the Criminal Law Committee of the United States Judicial Conference.