I do not agree with the recent SCOTUS decision on the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case. I have read the entire opinion as well as a substantial amount of associated legal and lay commentary, and I consider myself very well informed on most aspects of the case and decision. These are my very brief arguments:
- The case should have entered certoriari to begin with because it was premised upon two logical fallacies: 1) that a medical claim (which has no basis in medical science, and neither is supported by text in the Bible) can be considered a “religious belief” and 2) that a corporation can exercise religious freedom (i.e., the SCOTUS majority mis-applied the Dictionary Act).
- Evidence, including current financial investments in Teva Pharamceuticals, suggests that Hobby Lobby’s beliefs are not “sincerely held.”
- Compensation for labor is fungible. The possibility that an employee of Hobby Lobby could spend a portion of their paycheck on a good or service Hobby Lobby considers to be sinful is no less attenuated than the possibility of an employee taking advantage of health coverage that pays for the contraceptive drugs or devices in question.
But it is not my intent to spend this post arguing my side. I have been in this game long enough to understand that even the most evidence-based and logical argument may not be enough to sway the opinions of many, especially those with ideological beliefs that are deeply rooted in their religion. This post is directed, in good faith, at those of you who identify as religious and/or as defenders of religious freedom—specifically, those of you who think this ruling is a victory.
One of the most important aspects of this ruling is that women’s access to the four contraceptive drugs and devices in question will not change. To keep in line with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the ACA, SCOTUS could not change the fact that insurance must cover all 20 FDA-approved contraceptives and that cost-sharing is prohibited (i.e., women don’t have to pay anything for these items). The ruling states that corporations with religious objections, such as Hobby Lobby, now do not have to pay for plans that cover items to which they object on religious grounds. However, accommodation must be made to continue to provide the coverage with no cost sharing. This means that either the insurance issuer will have to cover it, or the federal government—i.e., the taxpayers—will.
Many religious conservatives are hailing this as a victory because the Greens of Hobby Lobby will no longer have to compromise their religious beliefs by contributing to an act they consider potentially sinful. However, under RFRA, ACA, and the SCOTUS ruling, someone still has to pay for it.
If the accommodation comes from the insurance issuer, that “someone” may be those in the same insurance pool. That’s how insurance works: your payments don’t directly pay for the care you receive; it is pooled to pay for the care of all people covered by the same insurer. If the Greens are part of their own insurance group plan, they are still (albeit in a convoluted way) paying for contraceptive coverage.
Alternatively, should the accommodation be that the federal government pays for the coverage (as is suggested by the SCOTUS majority), that “someone” may be all American taxpayers. This, of course, includes others who hold the same beliefs as the Greens.
In other words, SCOTUS has granted “freedom of religion” to a small minority of rich business people while taking away the same exact “freedom of religion” from countless other Americans.
Upon close examination, this decision is not about women’s rights (which haven’t changed). And it’s not about freedom of religion (because that “freedom” is now restricted across a much greater population). It’s about how much more power the rich have, and how they’re willing to leverage that power to further their own gains at the expense of everyone else. It’s about the dangers of corporate personhood. It’s about the powerlessness and the increasing minorityhood of the 99%.
If you are a sincere follower of Christ, you know that using one’s riches to create hardship on others is antithetical to his teachings. I encourage you to educate yourself about the true ramifications of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, then take action.
There is no victory here but for the rich and powerful.