The Hobby Lobby owners deserve respect and protection.
If they believe that IUDs and morning-after pills are immoral, then they must never be required in this great and free country to install in themselves the former, or ingest in themselves the latter.
Anybody trying to force that device or that tablet on those fine Christian people operating that fine American business establishment will have to deal with me.
On the other hand …
If you want an IUD, and feel you need one, or are advised on the device’s advantages by your doctor—and if it’s covered in your company health-insurance plan as required in the minimum-benefits guidelines established by the Affordable Care Act—then, of course, you should be able to exercise your free citizen’s option as provided by law.
And that legally provided option should not disappear if, owing to your special skills with arts and crafts and retail sales and service, you go to work for Hobby Lobby.
That the Hobby Lobby owners think it’s wrong to have an IUD is a decision for them to make for themselves. But it is not a decision for them to make for you simply because they pay you for employment services.
A job became more than slavery in America decades ago. Your employer is not your moral master. Your Lord—or your personal free version thereof—is your moral master.
Let your conscience, not your boss’ conscience, be your guide.
So the 5-to-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court got it badly wrong Monday. Startlingly wrong. Epically wrong.
For one thing, the Republican-nominated majority found that a corporation—at least a family-owned, non-publicly traded one—enjoys freedom of religion, as if it is a person.
But it is not. As Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it in her piercingly profound dissent, health insurance exists not for any corporation contributing to it as a term of employment. It exists for the individual.
A corporation does not need medical insurance. Its problems, whatever their form, cannot be helped by a cardiologist or an orthopedic surgeon. You can’t run Hobby Lobby through an MRI machine.
For another thing, granting dubious freedom of religion to an employer in the context of company health insurance essentially denies freedom to any differing religious conviction of any employee.
For another thing, the five-person Supreme Court majority essentially contradicted its own principle—or negated it—in its written ruling. It specifically stated that it was talking only about religious beliefs on contraception, not about other religionists who, for example, don’t believe in vaccinations or blood transfusions.
And why not?
As Justice Ginsburg nailed it again in her dissent: That sounds a lot like favoring one religion over another. And that sounds a lot like violating the establishing clause of the U.S. Constitution by which government is not supposed to establish a religion. That was a treasured bedrock constitutional principle of this country until … well, Monday, when the court put out this ruling.
When the Supreme Court specifically goes out of its way to say its ruling does not apply to other similar or even identical situations, then it has substituted narrow interest for broad principle. It has said we would certainly appreciate it if y’all wouldn’t make general precedent or a federal case out of this.
And for another thing: The federal government did not mandate that Hobby Lobby cover contraception—or anything. Hobby Lobby could have declined to provide a health plan at all and paid a penalty. Most experts think the company would have saved money, which it could have used to give employees raises to help them in the Obamacare exchanges.
One of the great ironies of contemporary American political debate is that the professed conservatives who decry overly controlling government actually impose a busy-body government. They do so either directly or indirectly through new busy-body authority scandalously delegated to corporations and churches.
With Citizens United and now Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court has said that corporations, being people, may spend as much as they want to say what they want to help get elected whom they want; then, under their prevailing religious view, they may exercise their financial advantage to defy civil law and take you hostage into their church by telling you as an employee what you may and may not do for birth control and general reproductive health.
Here’s how it once was, and must somehow become again: Your religion is free. You are welcome to it. You are protected in it. But it is only yours. It is not the government’s. It is not beholden on anyone else. If you believe a practice to be a sin, don’t do that practice. Marry no same-gender person. Undergo no abortion. Leave the IUD out and the morning-after pill in the bottle. But don’t presume to run the lives of people who believe differently. Pray for them.
And the rest of us will pray for the country.
John Brummett’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at email@example.com. Read his blog at brummett.arkansasonline.com, or his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.