Friday, July 04, 2014

Some Thoughts on Hobby Lobby and the ACA

This week, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) passed down it’s decision in the birth control mandate case that Hobby Lobby (HL) brought before the court. It was a small, minor, and likely short-lived victory for freedom.

In a nutshell, HL objected on religious grounds to providing insurance that included a few of the required birth control options required. HL did not object to providing insurance that included other forms of birth control. In addition, HL does not (apparently) have any concern for whether its employees seek the birth control methods to which HL objects. (More on this in a minute.)

The biggest question for me is this: What were the other four justices thinking? On what grounds in America should someone be compelled to violate their religious beliefs?

Apparently, birth control for women is one of them.

It is ironic, I must admit, that this generation of people who want the government to stay out of people’s bedrooms went all the way to the Supreme Court to get the government in the bedroom. People who want the freedom to do whatever they want do not want to afford that same freedom to others.

The hometown newspaper here, The Detroit Free Press, has run some articles on it. I highlight two.

The first is an editorial by Stephen Henderson, who objects to the idea that corporations have rights (more on this in the next post), unless its his corporation, the Free Press. But more shockingly, and in what can only be ascribed to ignorance or dishonesty, Henderson says, “But it ignored the rights of employees — a comparatively weak constituency — to use their compensation (yes, health care is compensation) in a way that was free from someone else’s religious beliefs.”

Actually, the employees are probably the single strongest constituency related to a corporation. If you doubt that, imagine what would happen if all the employees decided not to show up for work one day. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. It has happened in our labor history. And when that happens, not all the money in the corporate coffers can make a freshly built car roll off the assembly line, or stand up in front of a class and teach some students. All that money can’t even make a cashier stand behind a register and take people’s money for little kitschy craft items.

But more directly to Mr. Henderson’s attempt at an argument, no one, at any level, has suggested (until now) that HL was trying to control what its employees do with their compensation. Henderson probably knows this, which means it isn’t ignorance. It is more likely that Henderson is a political shill (something we already knew), who willingly subverts facts to support pet causes. I have seen and read enough of Henderson to believe that Henderson is not to be taken seriously. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine that Henderson takes himself seriously. This piece is another proof of that.

Mr. Henderson, HL has made no attempt to prevent employees from using their compensation to acquire whatever they desire. They are free to use their above average wages to but whatever  legal drugs they like. In fact, as you know living in Detroit, they can use their wages to buy whatever non-legal drugs they like. You know that. So why say something that isn’t true?

This case was never about controlling how employees spend the money they earn working. It is fundamentally dishonest to pretend that it is.

Another Free Press article highlights what is perhaps one of the most ironic comments that came from April Higgins, 31, of Detroit. She said, “I don't think anyone should have the right to tell you what to do. … What does that have to do with my job? If I'm working and I'm here every day, why should it matter?”

I imagine that HL could not have made a better case for their position. No one should tell them what to do. It has nothing to do with the job. People should come to work every day and work.

Of course, Ms. Higgins doesn’t believe what she said. She thinks the government should have the right to tell people what to do. That’s what this whole case was about. Do the people in Congress and the White House have the right to tell other people what to do with their money.

Justice Ginsburg opined that other religious objections might now arise in other matters, and what will we do then?

That’s an easy one that even Justice Ginsburg should have gotten right: We honor religious objections. If a company doesn’t want to pay for blood transfusions, vaccinations, or some such, they should be free not to.

Let’s return this issue (and virtually all others) to the marketplace. If people want these four types of birth control in their insurance plan, then they won’t work at HL. Go work somewhere else.

That’s what the aforementioned April Higgins does. She works at Greektown Casino. So why does she care what HL does for its employees? She is free not to work at HL.

You say, “It’s not that easy.”

Why not? Any HL employee can walk into the manager’s office and say, “I am quitting this job.” They don’t have to give a reason. They can just quit.

You say, well, it isn’t easy to find another job. Okay. So you have choices to make. We all make choices about what we do and don’t do. And there is no right to an easy choice.

Here’s the most disturbing implication of this case: It appears to put the federal judicial system in charge of determining whether a religious conviction is sincere or not.

I don’t like that, for me or for anyone else. How would it be measured? What proof will be acceptable? And why, in the first place, should courts be involved in determining people’s religious views?

In the end, this isn’t a big deal. The HL decision is fairly narrow, apparently. And it is probably short-lived.

For those whose Christian hope is in America, they will be found sorely disappointed. This holiday weekend is a good time to remember that America is not the church, and the church and the gospel doesn’t depend on America.

HL being free from providing all forms of birth control isn’t going to bring revival. I doubt your church attendance will be higher this weekend because of this. In fact, I doubt many people in your church will know much about this case. So I encourage you not to change that.

Preach the gospel. Call people to obedient faith. It still works.

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