Religious protections do not exist so that you may impose your beliefs on others
The Supreme Court took another step in cementing a corporation’s right to person-hood by allowing closely held corporations to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage to female employees. Only the Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. ruling is so sweeping that it could be interpreted to allow a corporation to refuse to follow any law that its board finds contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. This ruling while focusing on control of women’s reproductive rights will send shock waves through the legal system as other religious groups fight for their rights to control the private health decisions of others and more.
Hobby Lobby, along with two other closely held corporations, sought to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) mandate that required specified employers’ group health plans to furnish “preventive care and screenings” for women without “any cost sharing requirements.” The Court, in a narrow 5-4 ruling agreed with Hobby Lobby.
Relying on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, the Court held that Congress intended for RFRA to apply to closely held corporations as well as religious not-for-profit corporations. To hold otherwise would “leave merchants with a difficult choice: give the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits of operating as corporations.”
What the Court fails to address is the fact that religious protections do not exist so that you may impose your beliefs on others. This means that if your state protects members of the LGBT community, an employer could still discriminate against them and claim a sincerely held religious belief.
As Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated in her stinging dissent: “Would the exemption…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[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”
Mark Totten, who is running as a Democrat for attorney general in Michigan, responded with another angle that bears repeating “corporations don’t have souls and can’t have faith. Corporations are not people. They’re not God’s children and creation. Our religious liberties are fundamental to who we are as Americans. But these freedoms are far too precious to allow for-profit corporations to use them as a tool to ignore our laws. That allowance cheapens the very freedoms we cherish.”
The Court as it sits right now has a conservative majority. It looked as though Chief Justice John Roberts was working hard to bring the Court more to the center when he issued rulings in support of the ACA and the more recent unanimous decision regarding 4th Amendment rights to privacy regarding our cellphones. Instead we are served up another 5-4 split where the conservative justices (Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy) ignore precedent and common sense, along with the Constitution that conservatives claim to hold so dear, and turn it into a chance to further erode a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her own healthcare.
Justice Ginsburg summed it up perfectly by stating “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.” She also noted that for a woman to purchase an IUD without insurance it would cost her nearly a “month’s full-time pay at minimum wage.” The ruling also fails to make allowances for medical conditions that are treated with contraceptives.
This ruling truly is a “minefield.” It won’t be long before other corporations are suing for their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Any closely held or non-profit corporation is now free to disregard laws that it finds contrary to religious beliefs. What about the corporation that refuses to serve Jews or Muslims or gays? Or the corporation that refuses to hire women? Will that corporation be afforded the same protections as Hobby Lobby?