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Courting Disaster
Author: BobR    Date: 2014-07-02 10:12:11

(Note: Updated at 11:13 AM EDT - see bottom)

Monday's Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case has created a firestorm of opinions, predictions, anger, and calls for boycotts of Hobby Lobby. There is certainly cause for concern, and there are certainly things to be upset about, but it doesn't help when false information, exaggerations, and absurd predictions and analogies are tossed around. It's important to look at this rationally first before formulating a response.

The biggest misconception (or exaggeration) is that this allows any company to prevent women from getting birth control. In reality, the decision was based on Hobby Lobby's problem with 4 specific types of birth control:

  • 2 types of IUDs
  • 2 types of so-called "Morning After pills"

Their objection is that the affect of these 4 types of contraception are akin to abortion. The ruling in the Hobby Lobby case does NOT include "regular" birth control pills, which is a big misconception (no pun intended) among most of the outrage out there.

It also doesn't prevent insurance companies from providing coverage for those 4 types of birth control, but the employee will likely need to pay for that coverage rider themselves. While the cost will likely not be prohibitive, it will be an administrative nightmare.

The dissenting opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is the launching pad for a lot of bad "if-then" logical thinking from pundits and regular people:
She contemplated slippery slope arguments based on the recognition of corporate religious practice.

“Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, or according women equal pay for substantially similar work?” Ginsburg asked.

That "slippery slope" is where a lot of speculation has landed. It's certainly possible that a company could try to do this, but it would be fought in the court system - possibly all the way to the Supreme Court. It's unlikely they would get the same favorable treatment as Hobby Lobby.

There are plenty of good points to be made about how bad this decision is:

More court precedence to the personhood of corporations: Ginsberg writes "...the exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial legal entities". The Constitution makes no mention of ANY rights guaranteed to corporations. The very rationale for creating a corporation is to provide a safety wall between the owners and the company itself.

"Closely-held" corporations account for the majority of companies employing workers in the U.S. That list includes Koch Industries and Wal-Mart. So this isn't as narrow a ruling as Justice Scalia is proposing.

Justice Scalia offers an "out" that is contrary to the law as written in the ACA: He wrote in the majority opinion that the government could pay for the coverage. The ACA was amended to ensure that no federal funds are used for abortions. If the religious fundamentalists believe these forms of birth control are akin to abortion, they are not going to stand by and let the government pay for them. Scalia should know this, and his ignorance of it is troubling.

It favors a specific religion: The anti-abortion activism is really specific to Christianity. Per Justice Alito:
But Justice Alito said that “it seems unlikely” that publicly held “corporate giants” would make religious liberty claims. He added that he did not expect to see “a flood of religious objections regarding a wide variety of medical procedures and drugs, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions.” Racial discrimination, he said, could not “be cloaked as religious practice to escape legal sanction.”
But why not? Because they don't fit the Catholic framework of religion? This really shows that Alito is basing his judgement on what is a "valid" religious belief based on his own religious beliefs. THAT is government basing law on a specific religion, which violates the first amendment.

While the effects of the "slippery slope" remain to be seen, and even though most birth control is not affected by this ruling, the fact that ANY sort of concession to any law has been given to a for-profit company because of the religious beliefs of the corporations owners is scary enough. That is the true slippery slope here - special indulgences doled out to those favored by the court.

Isn't that the kind of thing we went to war against England to eliminate?

UPDATE: I was under the mistaken impression that Wal-Mart was solely owned by the heirs of Sam Walton, and therefore was a "closely-held" company. I was incorrect in that assumption.

Also (and more troubling), the court has instructed lower courts to extend its ruling to include ANY contraception, not just the four in the Hobby Lobby case (more info)

51 comments (Latest Comment: 07/02/2014 21:41:04 by Will in Chicago)
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