Hobby Lobby clashes with Obamacare
Christian company takes the contraceptive debate to the Supreme Court, battling Affordable Care Act provisions
The First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause has found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court again in the case between the craft store chain Hobby Lobby and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said he wants the company to follow Christian values, but President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act threatens the company’s morals, according to Kathleen Parker’s Washington Post article.
Under Obama’s healthcare plan, Hobby Lobby would be required to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients for its employees. If the company refuses to use Obamacare’s four potentially life-terminating drugs, it will be charged nearly $1.3 million per day in penalties, according to a New York Times article by Adam Liptak.
I think Hobby Lobby, as a privately-owned company by four family members, must retain the right to determine whether or not it wants to use Obamacare. I do not believe it should be within the federal government’s power to force companies to provide certain types of healthcare, particularly if that “care” goes against the conscience of the company’s owners.
“If the U.S. government can force the people running a corporation to use corporate resources to provide free abortion pills to employees … it is difficult to imagine the meaningful limits on government power in the marketplace,” Jay Sekulow wrote in a Fox News article.
The case also addresses the question of the “humanness” of corporations. Skeptics of Hobby Lobby’s claims ask if an intangible business entity can even have moral standards, according to a Forbes article by Daniel Fisher. And the answer seems to be no — it is individuals that have morals, not corporations.
But as I said, private business owners should be permitted to run their operation however they prefer, within the confines of the law. If employees disagree with their bosses’ philosophy, they can express their dissatisfaction either verbally or by finding a job elsewhere.
Further, according to Fisher’s article, corporations are able to sue over racial discrimination — a concept that appears could only apply to individuals.
And another seemingly contradictory statement: “Corporations can be assumed to have a guilty state of mind,” Fisher wrote.
Paul Clement argued in support of Hobby Lobby, appealing to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) to support his case.
The act “requires the federal government to meet a demanding standard when it imposes burdens on religious beliefs,” Liptak wrote.
In other words, the government needs to extensively support its argument before it can be allowed to go against a person’s religious convictions, a standard that I believe is vital to upholding the First Amendment.
Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli defended Obamacare’s mandate before the Supreme Court for Sebelius. In a Washington Post article, Jaime Fuller predicted that Verrilli would argue that RFRA has never applied to for-profit corporations.
Just because RFRA has not been applied does not mean it should not be applied now. From my understanding of the situation, RFRA suits this case well.
“Even if RFRA does apply … the contraception mandate does not rise to the level of being a ‘substantial religious burden’ … because the companies are significantly removed from an employee’s decision to use contraception,” Fuller wrote, quoting Pew Research.
The Supreme Court heard the case Tuesday, March 25, but is not expected to reach a decision until sometime in June, according to Parker’s article.
Elizabeth Stoker, a writer for The Week Magazine, provides another unique perspective. She wrote that a woman who works for Hobby Lobby could easily purchase a contraceptive with her own money, which presumably came to her in the form of a paycheck from the company.
The argument certainly is compelling and strong enough, I think, to pose a serious threat to Hobby Lobby’s defense. However, it must be understood that the company takes issue with using insurance companies that are mandated to provide contraceptives if asked. But what employees choose to do with their paychecks is quite out of the corporation’s jurisdiction.
It is apparent that with the many nuances of this debate, an easy solution will be difficult to find.