Sex, Drugs, and Eagle Feathers: An Empirical Study of Federal Religious Freedom Cases
Critics of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby predicted that it would unleash a flood of novel legal claims, transforming “religious freedom” from a shield for protecting religious minorities into a sword for imposing Christian values. Three years after Hobby Lobby, we now have a wealth of data. And we can ask ourselves: Did this flood occur?
It did not. My colleague Rachel Busick and I just published one of the only empirical studies of federal religious freedom cases since Hobby Lobby, and our findings correct the Hobby Lobby cynics in several interesting ways:
- We find that religious freedom cases remain scarce—accounting for 0.6% to 0.4% of the federal docket.
- We find that small religious minorities—like Muslims, Native Americans, and Hindus—bring a disproportionately large share of religious freedom claims, while Christians bring a disproportionately small share.
- And we find that successful religious freedom claims are rare—with only a handful of successful claims in our large data set over a five-year period.
The bottom line is that “the main beneficiaries of the win for Christian claimants in Hobby Lobby may be non-Christian religious minorities.” You can find the full study here and in the next issue of the Seton Hall Law Review.