2014

9 July 2014: Business and religion don’t mix: The SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision

Business and religion don’t mix

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,” writes Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg about the recently adjudicated Hobby Lobby case.  In it her dissent, she asks pointed questions of the all-male, religious-centered majority including “Do for-profit corporations rank among persons who exercise religion?”

Ginsberg quotes the first chief justice John Marshall who declared a corporation “an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of the law.”

In its Citizens United ruling, the same majority that held sway in the Hobby Lobby case played Creator and breathed life into that inanimate mental construction called a corporation and pronounced it good.  Now, that same majority has bestowed on it religious protection.  One wonders when the Christening will take place.

If that is the case, this case arguably sets a precedent, notes Ginsberg, by extending it “to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations.”

Despite the majority’s insistence that’s not its intent, that is what it has deigned.  It’s one thing for parents not to allow their children to be vaccinated, but quite another for their boss to tell them their medical insurance will no longer cover standard immunization shots because of his religious objections.  That’s now the law of the land.

Besides entering a minefield, standard expressions apply here including slippery slope and can of worms, though the can’s filled instead with rattlesnakes.

As the Washington Post editorial board notes, “When business owners enter the public marketplace, they should expect to follow laws with which they might disagree, on religious or other grounds. This is particularly true when they form corporations, to which the government offers unique benefits unavailable to individuals.  The Supreme Court weakened that principle Monday.”

In fact, the decision’s basis is so wobbly even John Hayward of the conservative journal Human Events opines, “A different Court shouldn’t have too much trouble reversing this, and in the meantime it doesn’t fatally injure ObamaCare.”

Nonetheless, until at least one of the conservative majority keels over, the decision will remain the law, for worse or worse yet.

There are a number of ways one can deal with this: boycotting Hobby Lobby, for example.  The company reeks of hypocrisy in that a huge share of its merchandise is produced in a slave state that denies its people freedom of religion and still forces abortions.  For Hobby Lobby, trade with China remains business as usual, a most un-Christian practice according to Jonathan Merritt of The Week in his piece “Stop Calling Hobby Lobby a Christian business.”

“A closer look at Hobby Lobby’s actual business practices reveals this claim to be as hollow as a flute,” he writes pointing out that annually 13 million abortions are performed in China with some 336 million over the past four decades.

“How can this ObamaCare mandate be so foul to Hobby Lobby executives, while they say very little about Chinese policies forcing women to have abortions against their wills? Is abortion wrong only when the terminated life is American?” he asks.

“Or Christian?” I wonder.

“Every time you buy a decorative platter from Hobby Lobby with a Bible verse stamped across it,” he continues, “you have funded the company’s fight against the HHS contraception mandate. But you’re also sending a chunk of change to a country that forces people to abort their children, flouts basic standards of workplace dignity, and denies more than a billion people the right to worship.”

Amen, brother.

A more effective and beneficial response, however, would be implementing a single-payer health-care system, which is among conservatives’ worst fears, to the point of paranoia.

“In fact,” Hayward shudders, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see this decision folded into the talking points of single-payer socialists.”

Ah, the “S” word.  As soon as they use that, you can be sure they’re freaking out knowing it’s a matter of time before their worst fears are realized..

If we’re serious about creating a system that promotes good health and provides for sound health care, we need to move beyond our current for-profit system for as this case clearly demonstrates, the danger comes not only from corporate health insurers such as United Health, but also from businesses providing an employee’s health insurance.

Health care is far too critical to be left to the whim and discretion of religion-first businessmen.  That’s the ultimate lesson to be learned from this inane decision:

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