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Antidiscrimination Laws Often Discriminate

Publication Date: 
June 30, 2014
The New York Times
Richard Thompson Ford

Professor Richard Thompson Ford weighs in on the Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores for The New York Times' Room for Debate.  

The Supreme Court’s opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores is proof that antidiscrimination laws, taken to extremes, can actually cause more discrimination than they prevent. Laws that deliberately target religion are and should be constitutionally suspect, but the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 goes further, mandating exceptions to laws that only incidentally burden religious exercise.

It’s tempting to believe that if some antidiscrimination protection is good, more must be better. But the religious freedom act threatens a host of reasonable regulations, including laws prohibiting discrimination against other vulnerable groups. Hobby Lobby argued that the requirement to provide its employees with health insurance coverage for contraception discriminates against its religious convictions. But refusing to provide it also discriminates by excluding medical coverage that only women use and by indirectly pressuring nonreligious employees to adopt a religiously inspired practice.