#HobbyLobby: When is Congress “Wise?” When the Court Agrees with Congress’s Wisdom

Near the end of Justice Alito’s majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case today, he writes that it is not the Court’s job to question the “wisdom” of Congress in using the compelling interest test in RFRA, but the Court applies that RFRA test strongly, and in a way which shows the Court apparently giving great deference to Congress’s judgment about how to balance the government’s interest in generally applicable laws with the accommodations of religious freedoms. It reminded me of Justice Scalia’s pleas in Windsor last term for deference to Congress on the need for the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Court has shown no such deference when it comes to the need for campaign finance regulation or to protect the voting rights of racial minorities and others. The Roberts Court has overturned or limited every campaign finance law it has examined (aside from disclosure laws). It has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. How much deference did Congress get in those cases? None.

Well when is Congress wise and entitled to deference? When the Court agrees with Congress’s approach. Let’s call that “faux deference,” to go with the “faux-nanimity” of the rest of the term.

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