Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ten Questions Arising from the Hobby Lobby Decision

1. How can the ruling be described as “narrow” when 90% of American corporations are closely held and over 50% of working Americans are employed by such companies?

2. Given that the decision revolved around the abortion issue (since Hobby Lobby’s owners said they did not, for religious reasons, want to pay for devices or medicines that could act in a way that could be perceived as abortifacient), is there any significance to the fact that the five Justices voting in the majority are all Roman Catholic while of those in the minority three are Jewish and one is Roman Catholic?

3. Is there any significance to the fact that all three female Justices were on the minority side while all five Justices on the majority side are men?

4. Will Christians who are applauding the decision as a victory for religious freedom also applaud future Supreme Court decisions, should they come, that exempt business owners of other faiths from the obligation to obey a law because they object on religious grounds?

5. Should the religious convictions of business owners trump the religious convictions (or non-religious convictions) of their employees? Or vice-versa?

6. How should we evaluate Hobby Lobby’s argument that to provide certain types of birth control would cause them to violate their Christian convictions when it has been established that they (a) do business with Chinese firms whose workers labor in conditions barely above those of a slave, (b) have significant holdings through their retirement plans in firms that manufacture the very items for which they don’t want their insurance to pay, and (c) until just before they filed the suit that ended up before the Supreme Court their insurance was paying for such medicines?

7. What is to prevent other Christians who own businesses from seeking exemption from other legal obligations based on the precedent set in this decision and based on clear teachings of Jesus (who said nothing directly about birth control)? For example, what if some Christian business owners, based on Jesus’ teachings such as “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “Turn the other cheek” ask not to pay that part of their taxes that goes toward military spending?
8. Does this decision that seems to come down on the side of the free exercise of religion go too far toward the establishment of religion or at least of a particular religious perspective? Will the religious convictions of business owners of other faiths be accorded the same status as those of Christian business owners? And if not, has not the Supreme Court taken a large step toward government establishment of the Christian religion?

9. Would not a boycott of Hobby Lobby, for which some people are calling in light of this decision, likely hurt the same employees that those calling for a boycott see themselves as supporting?

10. Does the Supreme Court’s willingness to allow the religious beliefs of (at least) Christian business owners to be a factor in the implementation of public health policy lend support to a move away from employment-based health insurance and even a move toward a single-payer system?


David Lambert said...

1. It was narrow not because of the limited scope of people it might impact, but that it was limited to the contraception mandate of the ACA.
2. Try as hard as we might, we can’t make judgments in a vacuum. Context is everything, especially our personal contexts. I’m sure it factored in, as did people’s political leanings. This is why there are nine justices and they serve for life, to guard against these tendencies.
3. See above.
4. We must. Infringing on someone else’s religious freedom is infringing on my own.
5. No. The First Amendment is partly mean to keep either from happening. But this isn’t really applicable in this case. The question was whether the Federal Government can compel the owners of a company to violate their own religious convictions. What the employees believe about abortion are not germane to this issue.
6. There is a great treatment of this on Forbes online. It explains the complexities of how 401(k) plans and mutual funds work. There is nothing that Hobby Lobby can do about this, much less if they could actually discern where fractions of shares of stocks bought in bulk through mutual funds are even held. And if you want to hold Hobby Lobby responsible for the practices of Chinese manufacturers, we must all be held equally responsible. I hate as much as the next person that so much of our products are made in China and other places where human rights are routinely violated, and I try to mitigate it as much as I can. I would love to see Hobby Lobby start selling more American made products, personally. But to discount their religious views on what they believe are abortion-inducing drugs because they sell products made in China is intellectually dishonest, with all due respect.
7. There is a tradition of conscientious objectors in our country, even groups who can opt out of Social Security. Is there a likelihood that others might try to do what you suggest? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. We need more people hold the government’s feet to the fire for their decisions and expenditures. We need people to call attention to unjust and evil things done in the name of “democracy” or “fairness.” They may not succeed—that’s up to Congress and the Supreme Court—but they can still accomplish some good by trying.
8. Not at all. That’s an extreme “slippery slop” argument. Again, this was a very limited decision applied to a specific case. But even so, it doesn’t force Christianity or Christian beliefs on anyone. I’m sure if other religions feel the same about the contraceptives in case, they too will be excluded from having to pay for them. Again, no one is asking these women to agree with Hobby Lobby’s beliefs, only to respect that the Green family strongly holds that belief and shouldn’t be forced to act against it.
9. Yes. And remember, Hobby Lobby pays its employees nearly double the national minimum wage. They offer robust health care plans and will still pay for 100% of 16 forms of birth control. They afford all employees a good 401(k) plan, and give them Sundays off. Not to minimize the issue, but aren’t people making a mountain out of a molehill given how well Hobby Lobby treats their employees?
10. First, the Obama Administration has already done this. They began the “slippery slope” of exceptions to multiple parts of the ACA, and specifically to the contraceptive mandate. Second, I hope that we begin the move to putting people’s health care options into their hands, not their employer’s nor the Federal Government. I should be free to shop around and purchase a plan that works best for me and my family and I should be able to keep it as long as I want, regardless of where I work or live.

Michael Ruffin said...

Further developments: