Religious Freedom? Hobby Lobby’s or Mine?

As most everyone has already heard, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a closely-held corporation can refuse to cover contraception in their healthcare plans for religious reasons.  Some people are cheering and some are outraged. I am outraged.
2010 US Supreme Court Class Photo
2010 US Supreme Court Class Photo

I believe that a cornerstone to being an American citizen is that in the United States we have a constitutional right to freedom of religion.  This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. You have your beliefs, I have mine, and next door they have none – and you know what? That is Ok. I respect your religious beliefs, and I hope that in turn you can respect mine – or at the very least respect that we differ in our beliefs. This is the United States. We have this freedom. A corporation is not a person. A corporation is not able to hold beliefs. The corporation owner, yes; the corporation, no. So then it follows that if the owner is allowed to impose their belief system onto their employees, then the employees have clearly lost their right to freedom of religion. As an employee your beliefs are now replaced by those of your employer. The Supreme Court just gave them that right.

I keep seeing two arguments being tossed into this arena:

“It’s not a problem – there are 20 other birth control options available; they only oppose two.” Yes, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga will provide coverage for certain forms of birth control. Hobby Lobby specifically opposes the IUD and the morning after pill. Conestoga opposes the morning after pill. Why do they oppose these two viable forms of birth control? They are opposed to these two forms because they contradict their family’s religious convictions. These options will not be offered to Hobby Lobby and Conestoga’s female employees. Not all women share their religious belief that life starts at the moment the sperm meets the egg. These are legal, viable options available to women to prevent pregnancy.

This is not about economics. Yes, an IUD cost upwards of $1,000. An IUD also offers protection against pregnancy for upwards of 12 years. That is less than $7 per month versus the average cost of $15 per month for oral contraceptives. IUDs have a fail rate (depending on type) that ranges from .2% – .8%.  The pill has an average fail rate of 9%. No, this is not about economics, so please don’t throw this argument into the mix.

IUD Birth Control

As I see it, this comes down to that fact that your employer‘s religious beliefs can legally supersede your own beliefs. Even though the First Amendment guarantees the right of religious freedom, women are now able to have their choice of legal contraceptives limited and based on their employer’s sincerely-held religious beliefs. However, this ruling does not only apply to contraceptive coverage. The ruling states that a commercial enterprise can opt out of any law (except tax law) that is deemed incompatible with their sincerely-held religious beliefs. That leaves me wondering how the law preventing discrimination against homosexuals may be affected when pitted against sincerely-held religious beliefs. Where will this ruling lead?

I spent many years working for a company that was owned by a family with “sincerely-held religious beliefs.” I am glad that my employers never imposed their beliefs onto my colleagues or me. No, they did not schedule school events on Sunday, but we were free to work on Sunday (in our classrooms on campus) if we chose. The owners lived their lives according to their religious convictions, and they allowed their employees the freedom to live according to their own sincerely-held beliefs (religious or not).

By the very essence of creating a corporation, the owners have created a business that is a separate entity – it makes the business separate from the owner. That is the definition of a corporation. So why is the owner’s beliefs now the corporation’s beliefs? Giving a corporation the right to opt out of laws in the name of religion is opening a very large can of worms.  Does this ruling apply to only Christian believers? We live in a world of many varying religions with equally varying beliefs. The Quran permits husbands to hit their wives. Can a corporation opt out of the laws against domestic violence?

I am outraged because this ruling gives commercial enterprises the legal right to opt out of laws, regardless of how they affect their employees, based on their religious beliefs. The Green Family and the Hahn Family have their religious beliefs. I can accept that, and I respect that.  Why can they not accept and respect that all people (some being their employees) do not share their same convictions? Is there perhaps a larger agenda in place? Money brings power, and with a net worth of 5.1 billion dollars the Green Family has a lot of power. When a company’s owner’s religious beliefs supersede their employees’ beliefs – American citizens’ right to religious freedom has taken a back seat.

And that scares me.

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