Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hobby Lobby vs Obamacare: 1-0

Hobby Lobby, unfairly demonized in various corners of the public square, had their religious beliefs upheld in the highest court of the land in a 5-4 decision this week.   The company’s leaders are deeply believing Christians, which I believe is still a lawful practice in this country.  The company tithes to charity and pays its full time employees at least $14.00 hourly, both evidence of a culture of compassion and fair play.

No, not these Supremes, the other ones.

There is a din of shrill protestations that the company is against contraception and women, which is a complete falsehood.   Hobby Lobby is not the Catholic Church who objects to all forms of artificial birth control as fundamental religious dogma.  The company always intended to cover 16 different forms of contraception, including oral contraceptives, condoms and tubal ligation.  It objects to birth control methods that take action after an embryo has been created.

I don’t grasp the notion that an institution that approves 16 different methods of contraception is against contraception or is posing an undue burden on women, although I admit that I view this issue through the lens of an XY chromosomal organism.   Might the arguments against Hobby Lobby’s beliefs have a political basis that is beyond the substance of the issue?

Although I recognize that the Affordable Care Act mandates coverage of all 20 birth control methods, in the medical universe that I inhabit, insurance companies do not cover every available treatment for every malady.  For example, a particular insurance plan may cover heartburn prescriptions, but not every one of them.

Keep in mind that the Supreme Court decision affects only closely held, for-profit companies, which affects only a small fraction of American working women. 

I personally believe that women who work at Hobby Lobby have a right to the 4 methods of birth control that the company objects to, including intrauterine devices and ‘morning after’ pills.  However, when I weigh the rights of the owners, who have a lifelong and deep Christian belief that forbids these practices, I am persuaded that their religious freedom argument is stronger.   If they had lost the case, they would be complicit in a practice that they find to be sinful and abhorrent.  If they prevailed, as was the case, Hobby Lobby female employees would still have access to numerous forms of birth control.

The Obama administration in its zeal to impose health mandates, has underestimated the resistance from groups and individuals who guard their personal freedoms and liberties with equal zeal.  This governmental myopia has led them to some uncomfortable crossroads, such as their pending litigation against the Little Sisters of the Poor, who will not accept the government’s accommodation to their objection to contraceptive coverage.   I would be reluctant to sue a group of nuns who are respected all over the world for their selfless, charitable endeavors.

I’m not sure I’m right on the Hobby Lobby issue.  Four Supreme Court Justices, all great legal scholars, think I am wrong.   The 5-4 decision is proof that this was no legal slam dunk.   Additionally, a different set of justices may very well have decided the case differently.  Yet, I feel that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties who joined with them in this case, had more to lose than women had to gain. 

I am neither pro-life nor Christian.  I’m a political moderate who has voted for candidates from both major political parties.   I’ve never even seen a Hobby Lobby store, but I’d like to meet the owners.  Are they warriors in the war against woman or freedom fighters for individual liberty?  I think the Court got it right. 


  1. I agree. Governor Bobby Jindal also got it right when he said, “America didn’t create religious liberty. Religious liberty created America”.

  2. I think you miss part of the issue here. First, as a result of this decision, companies are able to claim religious expemption from providing ANY sort of contraceptive coverage, no matter what Hobby Lobby's initial intent was. Are you comfortable affording corporations this level of personhood? Should business owners be able to deny employees access to insurance-sponsored blood tranfusions if their own religious beliefs object to it? Curious where you draw the line.. I would argue that upon incorporating, businesses immediately assume secular responsbilities to our community (regardless of the private practices of their owners)- like providing necessary coverage to their employees.

    PS, interesting to hear that you self-identify as a political moderate!


  3. Everyone self-ID's themselves as a moderate! It's rather uncommon to hear an individual define himself as a fringe extremist. A person to one's political left is a 'liberal' while a person to one's political right is a fanatic. Keep in mind that I agree with you that the women have a right to all forms of contraception (we can argue if an IUD or a morning after pill is contraception), but I was persuaded that the owners' rights prevailed in the contest. The SCOTUS has ruled, I believe, that corporations have a free speech right as a 'person', so there is precedent for legally humanizing a company. I reject the blood transfusion extrapolation. In that example, the employee could be denied a blood transfusion and die. In Hobby Lobby, the female employees are not denied contraception at all, only 4 methods deemed objectionable. In the blood transfusion hypothetical, the employee's right would prevail over the owners' considering that life is at stake and there are no alternatives to blood. I do think there are creative ways that employees can get coverage for certain benefits in a way that insulates the company,although many companies, including Little Sisters of the Poor have rejected these accommodations. Regarding 'where you draw the line' - your phrase - if your approach is overly secular, than it may unfairly impinge on religious freedoms. I agree, however, that these can be touch calls. How do you self-identify yourself politically?

  4. Great comment Dr. Kirsch. Very well said.