On March 31st  Jennifer Branch, counsel for Planned Parenthood and Chris Finney, counsel for COAST, participated in a Back-to-Back, engaging in a kind of a reverse debate in which each had to argue for the other’s point of view on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

The decision is best known for ruling that this closely held for-profit corporation could be exempt from Obamacare’s mandate that employers provide coverage for certain contraceptives in their employee health care plans based on the religious beliefs of its owners.  It raised a good deal of controversy, especially between conservatives who believe the four contraceptives at issue are “abortifacients” and who want more protection for their religious beliefs, and liberals who see the decision as ideologically driven interference with women’s choices of and right to reproductive health care. To call these issues controversial would be an understatement.

Describing the experience, each wrote the following:

“As I embraced the challenge, I felt I was representing the co-founder of Hobby Lobby, Barbara Green and her family.  The Green family operated a business that respected its 28,000 employees, mostly women. I was able to go beyond intellectually understanding their position and could feel their dilemma: compromise their religious beliefs or face government fines?  For me, humanizing the “opposition” helped me switch sides.”

“The exercise did not change my opinion of the Hobby Lobby decision.  I agree with the passionate dissent in that case.  But, if I met Barbara Green today I would respect her position as a religious business woman.  I would listen to her.  I would nod my head.  Not in agreement, but as a way of showing I respected her words, her position, her.”

-Jennifer Branch


 “I disagree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.”

“This notion, if not the quote, derives from French Enlightment.  Cincinnati’s Beyond Civility takes that notion – of tolerance – to another level, asking civic participants to also listen to and respect other’s viewpoints as we wrestle with the great issues of the day – to take the debate to a higher plane.”

“Properly articulating a position I did not hold in a debate before 250 attendees required me to research more thoroughly, and internalize more completely, the viewpoint of the left on a series of issues that are pretty easy to resolve in my own mind to the libertarian, I think tolerant, viewpoint.”

-Chris Finney

Click here to read the evaluations.