“Rights”

At present, it appears likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will have to make decisions affecting state law on same-sex marriage and whether companies and institutions providing health care insurance have the right not to cover contraception methods that go against the religion of the providers.  The State of Utah has filed an appeal against a federal court decision allowing same sex marriage, and a number of companies and organizations have suits pending on the abortion/contraception issue,

At the heart of these issues is the supposed question of whether the federal government can “impose” its will on these states and organization against the deeply held religious and moral beliefs of their constituents and various individual employers.  The problem is that those who have brought those lawsuits are the ones who wish to impose their values on others, not the other way around.

In the same-sex marriage issue, allowing same-sex marriages does not require any religion or individual to perform such marriages. Nor does the existence of same-sex unions limit or damage any rights of other individuals.  As the lower courts have held, failing to allow same-sex marriage does damage and limit the rights of same-sex couples. 

The same principle holds true for the health insurance/contraception/abortion issue. The founders of Hobby Lobby, as well as other employers, have insisted that being required to provide health insurance which covers certain procedures violates their beliefs and thus their rights.  Except, again, no one is insisting that they, or anyone covered by these policies, must undergo or use such services.  What the organizations are insisting is that their beliefs be imposed on all their employees. In effect, they want the Supreme Court to mandate that their personal beliefs limit the freedom of choice open to their employees.  We don’t allow religious beliefs to exempt employers from health and safety standards, nor from minimum wage requirements.  Why should religious beliefs be allowed to trump laws on healthcare?  And why should some employers be allowed to provide fewer benefits based on their personal religious beliefs, which restriction effectively imposes the practices of their beliefs on their employees… or requires employees to pay extra to have the same rights as employees of “less religion dominated” employers?

And for that matter, why should employers with certain specific religious doctrines be granted such exemptions when others are not?  Rigid adherence to Christian Science doctrine would prohibit any doctor-based health insurance, while adherence to the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses would prohibit coverage for use of blood or blood products?  Scientologists oppose pharmaceutical products used for psychiatric purposes. So far, at least, employers with those beliefs have not filed lawsuits, but if the Supreme Court finds for Hobby Lobby and others, health insurance could soon be shredded with exemptions.

In short, while we as a people oppose government restricting our freedoms when the exercises of those freedoms do not hurt others, and sometimes when they do – as in the case of gun control measures – why should we then allow organizations and individuals to restrict those freedoms based on the religious beliefs of the provider? 

18 thoughts on ““Rights””

  1. Frank says:

    From my perspective, there is only one reason, “real” reason, and that is that the religions/religious organizations involved do want to impose their views on everyone else…because, after all, God is on their side.

    The structural flaw in this argument is repeated over and over throughout our “body politic,” in my view. That flaw being that there is an underlying fundamental philosophical disagreement that is bypassed and we, instead, quibble about the administrative/bureaucratic/legal “details” because we are unwilling or unable to face the fundamental issue(s).In this case, the fundamental issue is whether we should allow a basic tenant of our republic to be subordinated to “God being on the side” of a religious issue.

    In the case of gun control, I believe that the fundamental issue is that a large part of our population wants to have arms because they don’t trust the government to either necessarily protect them, or to not turn against them as in Nazi Germany or the USSR’s histories. So we fence about the length of time one must wait to be checked out for criminal/mental background or the size of magazines, when the truth is that this facet of our society wants to be armed potentially against the government, and does not, therefore, even want registration. I am not demeaning their concerns over the government, but I don’t this the use of this type of sophistry results in a cure for the problem. At best it may temporarily ameliorate the symptom involved. At worst it results in gridlock and piles of disconnected “fixes” that are often at odds with each other…which I believes describes where we are currently at.

  2. JakeB says:

    Frank, that’s a nice point you make in your second paragraph. I’d add that I think one of the essential philosophical points expressed in the arguments over contraception & abortion coverage, however, is whether women should be subordinate to men. Of course, that isn’t the kind of thing that can be expressed openly in most parts of society, so religion is used as a cover.

    I believe that the reason so many religions use commandments regarding sexuality as a way to control people goes to their generally developing in agricultural societies which tend to be patriarchal as a way to guarantee labor and stability, but that’s for another day . . .

    1. Frank says:

      JakeB:

      I agree about the abortion/contraception issue. But, I am not trying to imply that there can only be one, or even one level, of fundamental issues. I do think that it is dependent on the complexity of the issue involved, and how far the discussion at large has already broken down the major issue into its component parts.

      With specific regard to the abortion/contraception issue, I think it was interesting when Admiral Stockdale (Ross Perot’s running mate, candidate for Vice President in the 1992 elections) was asked to explain his views on abortion during a televised debate, he answered with a very abbreviated (and I’m paraphrasing)”I think a woman is in charge of her own body.” That short answer brought a silence from the crowd. The moderator tried to coax more from him and Stockdale repeated, with some amount of annoyance “I think a woman is in charge of her own body.” That brought an ovation from the crowd.

      Although not an orator, I believe he crystalized the fundamental issue…and I believe he got it totally correct.

  3. Chris says:

    Not to belabor the point, but I think you’ve left out the ease with which a company–particularly one that relies primarily upon lower-than-average wage employees–can reduce the hours of its workers and simply hire more people for fewer hours per person, effectively eliminating the need to provide benefits under the law. I know of several businesses that have already gone this route to avoid the argument, and trying to tax them out of this reaction will cause some of the them to simply move part of their operations out of the US.

    There are an awful lot of economic issues that the folks in DC ignored when they passed ACA, and I don’t think any of the temporary or eventual solutions are going to be pretty.

    In the end, ACA increased benefits and that increases costs, the same as any other effective tax. Increased costs cause businesses to make cost-saving decisions, and that usually means lost jobs.

    1. I’ve discussed this issue in some depth in earlier posts, if not with specific regard to religion vs. healthcare insurance.

    2. Kathryn (@Loerwyn) says:

      This is actually a huge issue in the UK at the minute, where a lot of companies (especially retail) are going for volume of staff over quality. I work in a stockroom and I know for certain that the level of service our staff provides is much less than it should be. Actually, you actually seem to get less done this way because you spend half of your part-time shift cleaning up after the last person.

  4. James Wong says:

    Hallelujah, Most Christian conservative groups impose their views on society and take offense when their right to do so is curtailed.

  5. R. Hamilton says:

    I’m firmly in the corner that nobody and no institution, public or private, should be required to provide either services or recognition to anyone, and if they choose to, so long as they aren’t doing so on strictly the narrowest of sectarian or “theocratic” grounds, nor on the basis of gender (but not necessarily gender-related _conduct_) or race or whatever, it’s nobody’s darn business but the voters of the state whether or not they do, nor on what terms; and if it’s a service a private institution provides, frankly they shouldn’t even have those restrictions eventually. I understand requiring equal service until segregation has been truly crushed. But eventually, private should once again be allowed to mean the option of privately NOT serving, NOT associating, etc.

    I don’t believe the collective owes the individual, nor vice versa, much more than a modicum of order and some approximation of equal justice, and I think any attempts to bind either to the other much more tightly than that quickly devolve into soft tyranny.

    Nor do I believe in using the power of government to advance most alleged social good…which is NEVER universally accepted as good…

  6. Shannon says:

    I agree with R. Hamilton, for the most part. Government should not dictate to private corporations what should be included in their benefits package. Employees of Hobby Lobby or any other company (Chick-Fil-A?) have the ability to seek employment elsewhere if they don’t care for the terms of their employment. While I sympathise with the goals of Obamacare, I disagree strongly with the implementation. Government should not be able to dictate a company’s product and then require citizens to buy it. On the flip side, public health is a government concern.

    As for same-sex marriage, I have nothing against it. I do disagree with outsiders complaining about laws in places they don’t reside. As a Texan, I should not have any say in what occurs in Utah. I probably have a cultural bias against big government, having been raised in Texas. Should I choose to relocate elsewhere, I should take into consideration the laws in existence at my destination. Natives, of course, are welcome to attempt to change things. Unfortunately, I think this issue is like most. The majority of people don’t feel strongly enough to actually do anything about it since it doesn’t directly affect them.

    1. Government should not have to dictate — if men were angels — but they’re not, which is why health and safety standards are federally imposed; why environmental rules were adopted [because those oh-so-responsible private corporations turned the nation’s rivers into sewers]…and the list of truly despicable corporate acts and practices fills pages.

    2. Kathryn (@Loerwyn) says:

      “Employees of Hobby Lobby or any other company (Chick-Fil-A?) have the ability to seek employment elsewhere if they don’t care for the terms of their employment.” Yeah, in a perfect world. But I think you should ask yourself “does it matter if a potential employee is gay?” – well, of course not. Their eligibility to work should be based on their… well, ability to work, not whether they like to kiss men, women or no-one at all. That goes for all aspects of people that can be used to deny employment. Should an employer legally be allowed to deny work to an African-American? To a Native American? To a woman, even? No, in the vast majority of cases, this isn’t the case. You have vaguely understandable rules and regulations, such as you will essentially never find male cleaners working in the female restrooms, but in 99.9% of situations there’s never any reason to deny someone work because of some unchangeable aspect of their being.

      The sad thing is, a lot of these hateful companies hide behind positive language, so you would find very conservative companies talking about being “family friendly”, when what they mean is two and a half kids, the family pooch, a man and a woman and church on Sundays. They don’t mean anything else (except maybe the number of kids), so no requirements for healthy relationships or anything like that. Just… “We love the family”… as long as you’re their kind of family.

      And what’s to say these people actually knew of the history of the country? If a company is allowed to refuse offering employment to people based on intangible and ultimately irrelevant-to-employability then I think it’s only fair that companies are mandated to release mission statements or to actually be very open about their refusals. Now, I could be wrong, but I can’t see Chick-Fil-A having “We don’t want no gays” on their recruitment forms, can you?

      Ironically, you’d think companies would love same-sex couples as they wouldn’t (in most cases) have to offer maternity/paternity leave, no childcare/school to factor in, etc., etc.

  7. John Prigent says:

    It seems to me that most of the opinions presented (not here, in the general media) are about not letting religious objections overrule a duty to treat everyone alike. Which is fair enough, and I’d support it. But no-one seems to think about the consequences of banning people from acting on their beliefs. If a hotelier disapproves of gays and doesn’t want them to share rooms (there have been several cases where gays have won damages for precisely that) does any Government have the right to say ‘you must accept people that you regard as disgusting perverts’? It doesn’t matter whether they are such, if the person supplying a service thinks they are then being compelled to provide the service to them will cause deep unhappiness. The same applies to any group that dislikes another group, forcing compliance is actually a reverse discrimination. And what happens if one person dislikes another’s politics? Could it become a requirement to support a particular political view, 1984-style? I think there’s a slippery slope here that we need to avoid.

  8. Shannon says:

    Publicly traded companies should definitely be required to screen employees solely for ability and government positions, of course. Private companies should have a little more leeway. I honestly haven’t checked whether Hobby Lobby or any other company is publicly traded. Democracy is compromise and not everyone will agree. Imposing the morals of anyone (whether religious or secular) on the remainder of the population shouldn’t happen. Our society is not so closed that denial of services or employment to LGBT people in one establishment means every other company will do the same. People change jobs all the time because they don’t like the “culture” of their place of employment. When do one person’s “rights” get to impede another’s? In the public sphere, there will be restrictions on everyone’s freedom, whether to carry weapons or avoid associating with others, but privately, people should be allowed to act according to their conscience (obvious criminal activity being excepted).
    In Chick-Fil-A’s case, “we don’t want gays” on their paraphernalia probably wouldn’t matter, considering the outpouring of support when they came out with statements against gays. I don’t agree with their stance but I do think they have the right to act in accordance with their beliefs. Kathryn, you’re right gay couples are probably cheaper to employ, unless they’ve chosen alternative methods (probably not involving religious charities) to having children, which is perfectly acceptable.

  9. Kathryn (@Loerwyn) says:

    In the UK, there’ve been a few cases in recent years where bed & breakfast owners have been taken to court for refusing to let same-sex couples share rooms, simply based on the fact these groups are same-sex. That is discrimination, and you cannot legally deny a service to someone (or some people) based on their sexuality, irrespective of your beliefs. That’s the UK law. We had a bunch of people going “well what about the rights of the owners?” and “it’s persecution against Christians!” – Ugh. Simply put, in the UK, if you own a business then you are subject to laws in this country about discrimination and hate crimes. You can refuse service to people if they’re being aggressive, but you can’t refuse service based on some aspect of their being – skin colour, religion, etc.

    I, personally, think that if you’re going to deny people services based on their sexuality (or other aspect), I think you should legally be obliged to state that up front – like with no pets, no alcohol, etc. It makes everyone’s lives easier, plus it makes it so much easier to avoid such places beforehand. Public companies, Governmental (incl. administrative, emergency services, etc.) and corporations (i.e. businesses in more than one state earning over a certain amount – so chains, franchises, etc.) should not be allowed to discriminate on any level at all. Why? Because they are not companies or organisations ruled by any one person’s belief.

    Funnily enough, discriminating against your customers (or potential employees) seems very counter-productive. Surely the goal is to make as much money as possible?

  10. Tim says:

    Actually Kathyrn, in the UK since 2007, it is illegal to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation when providing them with goods or services, so a notice such as you suggest would just land the hotel with a legal case to answer.

    Why the guesthouse thought they were exempt is a mystery to me.

  11. Wine Guy says:

    I have no new points to make except to say….

    Thank goodness for a place where there is actual discussion and not diatribe.

  12. suicidal idiot says:

    Since the institution of marriage is designed solely to restrict sex to one partner, I’d think that religions would be even more in favor of it for gays than straights.

    I find it difficult to understand why gays would fight to be registered with the government and legally restricted in who they can sleep with. Even with prosecutions for illegal intercourse in decline, the civil penalties of divorce and spousal support have more than increased.

    Gay marriage is a terrible deal for gays. But I’m all for equality of misery, when it’s demanded by the victims.

  13. suicidal idiot says:

    Disturbingly, Masterpiece Cake Makers were ordered by a Colorado judge to make a cake for a gay couple after refusing the order earlier on religious grounds. The same thing has happened with wedding photographers.

    With this in mind, “allowing same-sex marriages does not require any religion or individual to perform such marriages.” is pretty obviously going to be proven wrong shortly. If the cake makers and photographers can’t discriminate for religious reasons, obviously the vendor providing the marriage ceremony will very soon be the next target.

    I look forward to future lawsuits in areas with legal prostitution forcing sex workers to accept gay clients…

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