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The Supreme Court’s Faith in Belief by Sarah Imhoff.

This summer, the Supreme Court was once again at the center of the American culture wars. The media and many Americans on both sides of the political spectrum saw the Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision as a case of religious freedom versus women’s rights. The headlines blared: “How the Catholic Church Masterminded the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Debacle,” Can Corporations Go to Hell?”, “Hobby Lobby: Does God Hate Obamacare?” and “Hobby Lobby case: Religious freedom’s worth more than $35.”

The court, which ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby, was no less divided than the press. The two outspoken former prosecutors on the bench, Justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor, pulled no punches in their rival opinions.

And yet, not every aspect of the court opinions was polarized. Though they often disagree about legal issues, the liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and conservative Justice Antonin Scalia are good friends. (There’s even an opera about them.) Hobby Lobby showed us another surprising agreement, one that Scalia, Ginsburg, and the other Justices all share: what religion is. Despite their differences, all of the justices seem to concur about two things: first, that religion has an identifiable core and essence, and second, that the core and essence of religion is belief. If and only if we see “sincere religious belief,” they suggest, then we see religion.


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