A Flock Of Wrong? A Pod Of Wrong? I’m Not Sure What To Call It
I’ve been wanting to read the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision and its dissents before commenting. It is actually worse than I could have imagined, precisely because, as Justice Ginsburg says in her dissent, the reasoning used here not only creates a precedent for a flood of litigation over what most would consider specious claims of religious freedom; it also grants to non-persons rights that trump the legislated rights of real persons. The idea that Hobby Lobby, as a corporate entity, has sincerely held religious beliefs at all is absurd. That its sincerely held religious beliefs would trump the earned benefits of its work force is so ridiculous that anyone making that claim prior to this decision would be laughed at.
The notion that providing contraception coverage in an earned benefit health care plan violates anyone’s religious beliefs . . . I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around this. That individuals might have an objection to birth control rooted in sincerely held religious beliefs is one thing. No matter how ridiculous and wrong that belief might be, I can grant to persons the right to be wrong. How does this particular belief, however, translate from an individual get transplanted to a for-profit corporation engaged in non-religious business practices? Even if Hobby Lobby is, as defined by law (please note that qualifier; Hobby Lobby’s existence is one defined by law), is a “closely-held corporation”, it still exists as a separate entity from the persons who control its business practices. In this case, however, that line disappears when it comes to policies and procedures for providing earned benefits to employees. Suddenly, the corporation and those who control it become one and the same. Regardless of the Articles of Incorporation, business plan, Corporate Mission Statement, or printed Policies and Procedures, Hobby Lobby suddenly becomes indistinguishable from the person who controls it. I’m not even sure how the 5 Justices who wrote the majority managed this trick without straining something.
This decision is so wrong on so many levels, I’m not sure if I can get through all the ways it is wrong. As an American, a person of sincerely held religious beliefs, and someone who understands the differences between individual persons and corporate entities, this decision is more than an embarrassment. It is insulting. That my freedom to worship where and how and in whatever manner I choose is exactly the same as Hobby Lobby’s desire not to provide women important health care coverage is an affront to reason as well as belief. That the state’s limit on declaring any official religious creed or practice is exactly the same as the state’s limit on telling corporations – whose existence is created by this same state through granting Articles of Incorporation to particular businesses – how to provide earned benefits to employees cannot make any sense to anyone except the five men who made this ruling.
The thing is, I’m not surprised the Justices discovered corporate religious rights. I’m also not surprised they discovered that contraceptive care is a distinct type of medical care, one suddenly fraught with religious and moral implications. Finally, I’m not surprised that some continue to insist that some types of contraception, by preventing the implanting of a fertilized egg, is in fact an abortifacient. None of this surprises me because our legal regime is ever more blatantly favoring corporate interests over workers and the public good. Whether legislative or judicial, we are living through yet another time when corporations suddenly and magically have all sorts of rights and freedoms that are of greater importance than those of everyone else. One would have thought that, having lived through such an era once before, and emerging (barely) from the most serious economic collapse in three generations because of corporate-friendly legal and regulatory practices, we as a country might be smarter than this. Alas, we are not. All that hard-won understanding about how to create a thriving economy is now lost, and in the meantime corporations suddenly have sincerely held religious beliefs that are of more worth than the earned benefits and legislated rights of women to comprehensive health care coverage, including contraception.
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is a horrible decision. Alas, it is also the law of the land. I’m not sure what comes after the complaining. I’m not in the prediction business. All I can do is shake my head that we have reached this point in our country’s life.