Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why should I care about the Supreme Court and Hobby Lobby?” you ask? Good question . . . especially if you could care less about birth control or think those gals should be happy to have jobs in these hard economic times. Still, as it turns out there were a couple of potential problems with the decision that should concern everyone.
For those of you who have more immediate problems and missed it, let’s review. On June 30, 204 the Supreme Court officially announced its decision in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases. The Court decided that for-profit companies now have the right to “a religious exemption from federal Affordable Care Act policies which require health plans to cover birth control.
This might have seemed like a clear cut victory for the many people who believe for one reason or another birth control should not be part of the standard employee insurance benefits package. The problem is the Supreme Court made the call based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act which is meant to scrutinize federal laws that could hamper a person’s freedom to exercise his/her religious beliefs.
Uh . . . but wait . . . is a business a “person”? Ron Fein, legal director for Free Speech For People, noted that corporations already “have free speech rights.” He pointed out that in the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, “the Supreme Court said that corporations have the same freedom of speech right to spend money in political elections that flesh-and-blood people do.”
So while it should not be a great surprise the Court now says that “corporations exercise religion”, corporations still aren’t people. In fact, your all too often underemployed author could even make a good case that corporations are not even human, mmmkay?)
Fein agrees that corporations are “artificial legal entities.” When Thomas Jefferson wrote that line in the Declaration of Independence about everyone being “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” he wasn’t referring to corporations. Businesses are not men or women. They are as Fein calls them “economic structures” that are controlled by laws.
What the Supreme Court has done is essentially given for-profit companies the ability to force the religious beliefs of their stockholders on employees who might have different (if any) beliefs. (If you’re now thinking: “whatever” then keep reading. Your opinionated penman was thinking the same thing.)
Reduced employee benefits costs provide a low-margin business with a slight market edge. This means that any hardcore religious group—Christian, Muslim, you name it, we won’t single anyone out here —can buy a business and then cut costs on benefits by declaring religious objections to regulations that their “heathen” competitors must follow.
In fact, the Supreme Court decision now gives corporations the ability to challenge any federal law they choose. The Court’s lack of imagination now opens the door to corporations saving a lot of money simply by being creative about religious beliefs.
Companies now have the opportunity to legally discriminate. Even honest religious corporate investors have been given a clear advantage over the “Godless” corporations thanks to the Supreme Court. Permitting companies to claim “religious exemptions” means less freedom for all Americans.
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