As you may have heard, the Supreme Court of the United States made a somewhat important decision this week.
Side note #1: Are there any decisions made by the Supreme Court that aren’t important? I mean, isn’t that why they’re the Supreme Court? Do we really need to designate a ruling as being important?
Side note #2: I’m going to avoid using the acronym SCOTUS, simply because it reminds me of the word scrotum. Surely I’m not the only person to think this, right?
If you missed it, several American corporations – Hobby Lobby being the most prominent – wanted to opt out of certain mandates of Obamacare. The specific part that they disagree with is the inclusion of contraceptives. They argued that their religion opposes the use of certain types of contraceptives, and therefore it was un-Constitutional to force them to pay for them.
The Supreme Court agreed with them., and most liberals are up in arms about the decision. Heck, even some members of the Supreme Court are upset about it. As a firm liberal, it feels like I should be jumping on the bandwagon and join in on the condemnation of the Supreme Court (or at least the male members).
But I’m not going to do it. In fact, I actually agree with the court’s decision.
I’ll confess something right off the bat: I am not a woman. (Gasp!) I don’t want to be accused of being “another man telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.”
I am also not a fan of Hobby Lobby. I think the owners are backwards-thinking people who would be just as happy if the Constitution was replaced by the Bible. But I also believe that they are quite devoted to their religion and are almost 100% sincere in their intentions.
Thanks to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), they are not only entitled to their religious beliefs, but they’re allowed to run their business – which has been deemed a “closely held corporation” – according to those beliefs.
Everybody seems to love laws like the RFRA when they protect our own individual freedoms. But we’re not always happy when it protects beliefs that don’t quite sync with our own.
I’ve noticed that Americans are often very quick to defend the religious beliefs of everyone in the country – except Christians. Even though Christianity is the predominant religion in America, it doesn’t mean that Christians are any less deserving of their rights.
Hobby Lobby is not forbidding employees not to take birth control. They are not firing people due to taking birth control. They are not enforcing their religious beliefs on their employees.
If women want to purchase birth control, they can still do so. But they’ve got to pay for them out of their own pocket.
I realize that some women take these drugs for other medical reasons besides preventing pregnancy. The cost of these drugs is high, and could very well cause some tough choices and hardship. While I sympathize with those women, that still doesn’t change my opinion on the Court’s ruling.
In all the outrage I’ve seen, most people are missing the real problems.
The first problem is that like many laws, RFRA was subject to a large margin of interpretation. And apparently it is so vague that even the members of the Supreme Court can’t really agree on it.
Since the law’s induction, a precedent has been set that it applies to closely held corporations as well as people. If that is how the law has been interpreted, then the owners of Hobby Lobby can indeed enforce their religious beliefs on their company.
I can understand why this interpretation exists. For instance, what would happen if a law was introduced saying that all restaurants must serve bacon with every meal?
I’m sure there are some bacon enthusiasts out there who would be very favor of such a law, but for a restaurant owner who kept kosher, this would not be good news. The law would force them to operate their business in a manner that directly conflicted with their religious values.
Don’t they have the right to run their business in accordance with their beliefs?
The second problem is that the burden of providing health care is being placed on employers. When we place the financial burden of healthcare on corporations, it only make sense that those employers are going to want some input into what is being provided.
Many conservatives are pointing to the ruling as a victory. Based on what I’ve read, this is mostly because it was a defeat for Obama and Obamacare, and most conservatives have ceased caring about anything besides defeating Obama and anything he stands for.
But the continued push towards “corporations are people” may not turn out to be such a good thing for business interests. The relationship between a company and its owners has become blurred, and that may limit the amount of personal protection gained by incorporation.
I’m sure there are lawyers out there already dreaming up schemes to sue the owners of Hobby Lobby or other closely held corporations. Perhaps a former employee feels that they were discriminated against due to their religious beliefs. Since the company gains its religious views from its owners, shouldn’t the owners be held personally responsible for any discrimination?
Ruth Bader Ginsberg argued that the Supreme Court “ventured into a minefield” with their decision. While the situation is indeed a bit of a minefield, I feel it was created long before now, back when RFRA was introduced or when the precedent of “corporations as people” was first set.
The Court is now forced to maneuver their way through a terrain that is likely to become even more treacherous in the days ahead. In this particular case, even though it might not have been an especially popular step, I feel that it was indeed the correct one.