Supreme Court Rules on Hobby Lobby Case: Corporations (Somehow) Have Religion Beliefs June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Rules on Hobby Lobby Case: Corporations (Somehow) Have Religion Beliefs

The Supreme Court just ruled 5-4 that Hobby Lobby and other closely-held (family-owned) corporations have the right to deny contraception in their insurance packages.

The Affordable Care Act mandates that companies must provide contraception coverage in their insurance packages. While Hobby Lobby covers 16 forms of contraception, including condoms, they refuse to cover IUDs and morning-after pills because they wrongly believe they would be aiding in abortions rather than simply preventing pregnancy from occurring in the first place. It’s that misunderstanding of biology that led the evangelical Christian-owned Hobby Lobby owners to sue the Obama administration. And it’s companies like Hobby Lobby, which are family-owned, that just got the opportunity to continue depriving employees of comprehensive health coverage. (Some good news: The government can still provide that additional coverage to those women. Will women have to pay extra for that? It’s unclear.)

So what now? This was a very narrow ruling, applying only to the contraception mandate. It’s possible that other Christian-owned companies could stop covering all forms of contraception — including the kinds that have nothing whatsoever to do with pregnancy. However, the ruling does not allow, say, Jehovah’s Witnesses who own companies to deny their employees blood transfusions in their insurance plans.

According to SCOTUSBlog, “It is extremely likely that the Obama administration will by regulation provide for the government to pay for the coverage. So it is unlikely that there will be a substantial gap in coverage.” So it’s a victory for Hobby Lobby, but not as devastating a loss as it could have been.

Congratulations, conservative Christian business owners. You win. You can finally legally discriminate against women by denying them access to certain kinds of birth control normally available through their insurance.

Just remember this, Green family: While you’re reveling in victory, millions of young people are fully aware of what you’re really celebrating. It’s not about “religious liberty” because your rights were never up for debate. We know you’re happy because, once again, Christianity has been used as a weapon of discrimination. Enjoy your Supreme Court victory while it lasts because, in exchange, you’re about to lose even more of your social power.

This is just a continuation of all those other times you used your power to make others’ lives worse. Every time you stood in the way of marriage equality, more people left their churches, vowing never to return. For years now, we’ve known that the reputation of Christians is that they’re anti-science, anti-gay, and anti-women. You’ve only solidified those stereotypes and churches will pay for that as they lose members fed up with being associated with an organization that takes joy in denying others freedom and happiness.

The Center For Inquiry, which filed an amicus brief against Hobby Lobby, issued a statement denouncing the decision:

“The potential effects of this decision are absolutely chilling, setting a precedent that is sure to reverberate far beyond the issue of contraceptive coverage,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry.

“This is not a decision that advances religious freedom — it is a decision that enshrines religious privilege over and above employee well-being,” added Lindsay. “This decision defies common sense, lacks compassion, and has the potential to harm us all.”

The Secular Coalition for America also issued a statement against the ruling:

Amanda Metskas, President of the Secular Coalition for America, said today’s decision by the court will allow employers to impose their religious beliefs on their employees and interfere with the employees’ personal health care decisions.

“This is a sad day for anyone who believes in true religious freedom. With this decision the Supreme Court set a terrible precedent for religious interference in individual choice,” Metskas said. “This decision allows for-profit business owners to impose their religious preferences and practices on their employees, leaving the religious freedom of millions of Americans at the mercy of their individual employers.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which also filed an amicus brief against Hobby Lobby, was dismayed by the ruling:

“This decision is a double-edged disaster,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It conjures up fake religious freedom rights for corporations while being blind to the importance of birth control to America’s working women.”

Added Lynn, “The justices have set a dangerous precedent. While the Obama administration may arrange for the government to provide contraceptives, a future administration could easily take that away. In years to come, many women may find their access to birth control hanging by a thread.”

The American Humanist Association chimed in as well:

“The Supreme Court has placed the religious views of corporate shareholders over the legitimate health care concerns of employees,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “This isn’t religious liberty — it’s religious intrusion that will negatively affect many hard-working Americans.”

“The Supreme Court is endangering the health care of many Americans based on the fictitious idea that a corporation has religious convictions,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “By expanding the rights of corporations, this court is in fact contracting the rights of hard-working Americans who expect full health care coverage as required by law.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote:

Today’s decision is also an affront to the reproductive rights of American women. No religious employer has the right to dictate which prescriptive birth control method women employees may or may not choose.

Once again an all-Catholic, all-male, all-ultra-conservative majority of five has voted en bloc to eviscerate fundamental rights. The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers who provide health care coverage must offer preventive care, including prescriptive contraceptives, does not violate the rights of Hobby Lobby, even though it is run by a fundamentalist zealot.

They also urge you to call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the act that made this decision possible.

Here’s American Atheists:

“This is a disgrace and an indignity to Americans’ right to be protected from the abuses of other people’s religions,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “Shame on the Supreme Court, which has effectively told Americans that if you can come up with a religious excuse, you are above the law. This is an injustice of the highest order for separation of religion and government, for equality, and for the constitutional protections guaranteed to all Americans.”

“The Court has granted religious liberties to some corporations, claiming they have the same rights as citizens. What about the rights of the women, the workers? We fear the consequences of this decision on publicly traded corporations in the future,” said Managing Director Amanda Knief, a lawyer and public policy expert.

Here are a few select excerpts from Justice Ginsburg‘s dissent:

Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent.

The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.

the Court’s reasoning appears to permit commercial enterprises like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga to exclude from their group health plans all forms of contraceptives.

Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives extend 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 (Christian Scientists, among others)? According to counsel for Hobby Lobby, “each one of these cases… would have to be evaluated on its own… apply[ing] the compelling interest-least restrictive alternative test.”… Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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