Religion… and Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in the Hobby Lobby case, declaring that companies, at least those privately held, are not required to provide birth control benefits under their health insurance plans when providing those benefits is against the religious beliefs of the company’s owners.  Whether the decision sparks other lawsuits or remains a relatively narrow example of an owners’ religious beliefs being able to dictate the scope of health benefits provided to employees remains to be seen.

The underlying issue that the Supreme Court did not address, and which Congress has also steadfastly ignored, is the degree to which Constitutional and statutory “rights” of individuals have been either enhanced or diminished by the exercise of the “right” to apply religious freedom” to others.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Court verdict essentially states that an employer can effectively limit the access of employees to health care, solely on the basis of religious beliefs.  The employer is not denying birth control services to employees, because employees can theoretically purchase those services on their own.  But there are other aspects to consider, which the Court either did not consider or decided were not important enough to be a factor.  First, when an employee must pay additional funds for health services that the law declares other businesses must provide to their employees, the employee’s access is diminished or costs are increasing, if not both, and they are in a position whereby their total effective compensation is effectively lowered by the employer’s assertion of religious freedom. Additionally, other businesses, which do not have a religious exemption, will likely pay higher costs for employee healthcare insurance.

Thus, in effect, others must pay for Hobby Lobby’s “religious beliefs.”  Obviously, this would not be the case if there were not a law requiring insurance coverage, but there is, and the Court did not strike down the ACA as infringing on religious beliefs. In effect, the Court’s decisions declare that a public policy requiring health care coverage is Constitutional, but that effectively any employers with a clear religious affiliation can refuse to provide coverage for any procedure against their beliefs.  This effectively equates privately held corporations with churches, even though churches are non-profits, and money-making corporations like Hobby Lobby not.  All this brings up an interesting situation, because the Constitution declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” but there’s nothing in the Constitution to forbid the Court from issuing a legal opinion that effectively states that religious beliefs trump civil law and can be used to deny some citizens benefits that most others are entitled to receive under that civil law.  This strikes me as a rather dangerous precedent, particularly when it is endorsed and supported by so many of those who have railed against the fact that Islamic Sharia law supersedes civil law in the Middle East.  It’s wrong for Muslims to have Islamic law trump civil law, but fine for American corporations to sue, and win, for religious beliefs to trump civil law?

Not that any of the far right will see, or care, about the hypocrisy involved. They got what they wanted, and that’s all that matters to them.


6 thoughts on “Religion… and Rights”

  1. Robert The Addled says:

    Exceedingly dangerous precedent.

    With this court decision, I can see the SF dystopian tropes of Corporations that are more powerful than national governments coming true.

  2. Josh Camden says:

    And you said you don’t write about monsters ?!?

    Our government is slowly transforming itself into some kind of eldritch thing.

    There is a time when panic is the appropriate response. – Eugene Kleiner

    Nothing to see here;
    Hope and Change… move along.

  3. Thom says:

    I must have read a different court opinion. The one I read was specific to the contraception mandate, and rested on four specific drugs that can be considered abortion pills. It can also be argued that when HHS issued the mandate (it was not originally part of ACA) they could have foreseen that response and crafted it more carefully or provided more options. They still can. But healthcare in general? This ruling doesn’t even begin to address that. ACA is in no danger.

    Anything beyond that, however, is simply guessing about what might happen and both sides of any argument can come up with their own bogey-man list of consequences. It proves nothing.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      Agreed, although the decision that let ACA survive in the first place was crazy: claiming it could survive based on taxing powers even though it’s not a tax per se. That strategy could lead to people being required to buy almost anything if some public interest is alleged.

      It’s one thing (esp. for states rather than the federal government) to require _liability_ insurance as a condition of doing something that may put others at substantial risk; it’s another to require people to pay for insurance for themselves. Simply stop requiring hospitals to serve the uninsured; and let private charities serve them (or else provide a minimal safety net for those demonstrably unable to do so themselves, and let all those able but unwilling die: there’s no reason whatsoever to keep fools alive).

  4. Rehcra says:

    This has almost nothing to do with ACA. It’s about the religious rights of Job providers trumping the Rights to health of the Employees. Which in my opinion if I might add, Privacy rights say the Employer doesn’t even have a right to know about.

    But in the end even though I disagree with the ruling I am fine with it because there are so many ways to work around it. The employees can always buy their own Heath Insurance instead of going through their employer. I don’t know exactly what is required of Employers with ACA but there is no reason it couldn’t be required even if their employees choose a different Insurance. And if the Employer is going beyond what is required of them in their own insurance I see no reason for the government to be able to require them to continue that for employees who do not join their insurance.

    p.s. Nice call on the Bogey-man thing Thom 🙂 but if the government starts requiring us to buy bogey-man insurance I am blaming you. Because that would prove everything.

  5. Dieirdra says:

    A company has a duty of care towards its employees in return for their work. If the financial value of this duty of care is being lessened due to a religious point of view, you get a two tier society where it is more expensive for a company to not be a religious company. There are all sorts of things wrong with this, besides it being distasteful.

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