A few observers have noted that the entire Hobby Lobby case rests on the conflict between science and religion, specifically the tendency to distrust science as somehow antithetical or at least hostile to faith. That topic is best covered in a different post, and I, quite frankly, have no interest in writing one about it. It is clear that the mistrust of science led to some of the stronger rhetoric, and certainly in the triumphalism evident in some circles after the decision.
To be clear, the case rested on the Green family being allowed to define pregnancy in a way that is counter to how medical professionals define pregnancy. I have no idea why I should take the word of business owners who specialize in selling imported crap for display in middle class homes around evangelicaldom when the American Medical Association seems a far more reliable source of information about medicine, but it's America, and as my students regularly inform me with scalable—depending on their level of offense at my cultural blasphemy—levels of indignation, "Everyone has a right to their own opinion."
Indeed, even if those opinions are wrong. At least once in my career I have wished that a student would test scientific opinions with real world experiments, like the theory of gravitation from the roof of the library, or energy exchanges in collisions by standing in front of a speeding truck. It's not one of my better moments, but I can only be expected to explain "scientific theory" to college students so many times before I lose patience with the systems that work against science education in this country. (Science educators, I feel your pain, and I sincerely hope that you get your own shopping-mall-sized particle collider in science heaven.) More informed writers than I have lamented at length the ways in which science education is deficient in this country, and fundangelical Christianity bears a substantial portion of the blame for this unhappy circumstance. This, however, is also not the subject of this post.
The Hobby Lobby decision is a hydra-headed clusterfuck, and we'll be sorting out the implications for a long time. That the SCOTUS majority opinion specifically said the decision could not be used for precedential purposes related to blood transfusions and other medical realities about which different faith traditions have differing beliefs is a strong indication that they know this was a perilously bad decision. Either the principle applies or it doesn't, and in this case, they treated a comprehensive application of principle as an ad hoc application of principle, but the box is still open and the five justices in the majority will be living with their decision in the form of litigation for years to come.
As for how this relates to religion and public life, my favorite topic for you newbies, this is an excellent (for illustrative purposes, I mean) example of the tendency of confusing the purpose, nature, and object of faith with a clearer task of language and a more testable version of truth. Faith, at least in a theological framework, is likely best defined as trust. Like many terms related to metaphysics, the edges of the definition are blurry, so precising definitions are always necessary in discussions of faith. Trust, I think, comes closest in a comprehensive sense.
Trust in god is the proper application of faith, and the possible permutations of that phrase, while possibly hard to quantify, at least offer a hint about the purpose and object of faith. Faith is trust directed at god, and it relies on believing things that can't be known. This is contra Reformed theology, especially Calvin, which sees faith as "firm and certain knowledge" about particular revelations that come from God and that are testified to by the Holy Spirit, whose task is to reveal them to our minds and seal them on our hearts (ugh, useless metaphor there). This is metaphysical magic talk for "we know things that there is no way to actually know."
Since I think of Reformed and neo-Reformed theology (except Barth) as synonymous with logically consistent insanity, you will forgive me for saying Calvin is explaining a reality that he can only agree to if his god is THE god. Extend that definition to Hinduism or Santeria, and he would argue that reason is the means to prove the superiority of Christianity over those other religions, and not faith as a mode of knowledge. How, after all, do you argue for the superiority of one sacred text over another without using reason, especially when both religions rely on revelation as a means to knowledge of god?
So, to the issue at hand. Faith in god does not imply the ability to define non-theological terms, like pregnancy, so that they are consistent with a particular brand of theism. The object of faith is not definitions or meanings that are only tangentially related to words in a sacred text; the object of faith is god. This will necessitate that theists believe certain things are true or false, but extracting categories from the text and then insisting testable truths be understood in light of those categories is not helpful in communicating with members of various tribes who do not share those categories. Pregnant means, for all tribes, a fertilized egg is implanted in the wall of the uterus. To equate faith with the belief in definitions that are contrary to known scientific realities is to impose an anti-intellectual burden on believers that makes meaningful, intertribal communication impossible.