I made the mistake of first reading Charlie Pierce on this (well, not first first; I'd read a bit earlier about these appeals, so I wasn't surprised or dismayed the Supremes had taken them). Better, as always, to go to Scotusblog and find out what's really going on. Charlie tends to swing before the pitch is even thrown.
First: there are three cases involved here: Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius; Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.; and Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius.
Conestoga involved a RFRA claim and a 1st Amendment (free exercise) claim. The appellate court rejected both claims:
General business corporations do not, separate and apart from the actions or belief systems of their individual owners or employees, exercise religion. They do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiously-motivated actions separate and apart from the intention and direction of their individual actors.The Hobby Lobby case is appealed by the government. It also presents a RFRA claim on behalf of the corporation and two of the corporate owners (as in the Conestoga case, where individuals and the corporation both asserted a RFRA claim. In Conestoga the court specifically held that the individuals had no RFRA claim through their ownership of the corporation). The holding of the appellate court is really on the preliminary injunction which the district court denied; as a holding it is, as you will see, something of a mess:
Our conclusion that a for-profit, secular corporation cannot assert a claim under the Free Exercise Clause necessitates the conclusion that a for-profit, secular corporation cannot engage in the exercise of religion. Since Conestoga cannot exercise religion, it cannot assert a RFRA claim. We thus need not decide whether such a corporation is a "person" under the RFRA.
As to jurisdictional matters, the court unanimously holds that Hobby Lobby and Mardel have Article III standing to sue and that the Anti-Injunction Act does not apply to this case. Three judges (Kelly, Tymkovich, and Gorsuch, JJ.) would also find that the Anti-Injunction Act is not jurisdictional and the government has forfeited reliance on this statute. These three judges would also hold that the Greens have standing to bring RFRA and Free Exercise claims and that a preliminary injunction should be granted on their RFRA claim. A fourth judge (Matheson, J.) would hold that the Greens have standing and would remand for further consideration of their request for a preliminary injunction on their RFRA claim.Concerning the merits, a majority of five judges (Kelly, Hartz, Tymkovich, Gorsuch, and Bacharach, JJ.) holds that the district court erred in concluding Hobby Lobby and Mardel had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on their RFRA claim. Three judges (Briscoe, C.J., and Lucero and Matheson, JJ.) disagree and would affirm the district court on this question.A majority of five judges (Kelly, Hartz, Tymkovich, Gorsuch, and Bacharach, JJ.) further holds that Hobby Lobby and Mardel satisfy the irreparable harm prong of the preliminary injunction standard. A four-judge plurality (Kelly, Hartz, Tymkovich, Gorsuch, JJ.) would resolve the other two preliminary injunction factors (balance of equities and public interest) in Hobby Lobby and Mardel's favor and remand with instructions to enter a preliminary injunction, but the court lacks a majority to do so. Instead, the court remands to the district court for further evaluation of the two remaining preliminary injunction factors.[fn1]One judge (Matheson, J.) reaches the merits of the plaintiffs' constitutional claim under the Free Exercise Clause, concluding that it does not entitle the plaintiffs to preliminary injunctive relief.[fn2]
Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below and exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1), we reverse the district court's denial of the plaintiffs' motion for a [*1122] preliminary injunction and remand with instructions [**4] that the district court address the remaining two preliminary injunction factors and then assess whether to grant or deny the plaintiffs' motion.