The Hobby Lobby case that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court today shows why religious beliefs can be dangerous to your health.
In this instance, if you work for a company run by owners who want to impose their religious dogma on their employees.
To me, it's a no-brainer: corporations should have to follow the law, just like everybody else. I don't see why there should be exemptions for any sort of religious belief. After all, who is to say what is "religious" and what isn't?
Meaning, what difference is there between (1) the owners of Hobby Lobby who are members of an organized religion (Baptist, I believe), and (2) anyone else who has beliefs founded in some sort of personal faith?
If the Supreme Court allows the Hobby Lobby corporation to get away with not providing certain forms of contraceptive insurance coverage because the owners object to providing those services, then why can't a vegetarian business owner with ethical objections to eating animals refuse to pay for any insurance benefit that involves the slightest bit of animal product?
Gelatin capsules, for instance.
That way lies societal craziness. Yet I heard one of Hobby Lobby's attorneys say in a radio interview that what insurance benefits religiously inclined owners could deny their employees would depend on the individual beliefs of the owners.
In other words, it wouldn't matter that the Baptist Church, Catholic Church, or whatever other religion the owners belonged to had no objection to a certain health care service. If the religious owners of a corporation said they had a moral objection to X or Y, those services could be denied to their employees.
Such as, one must assume, organ transplants. Or blood transfusions. Again, this is crazy.
Salon has a good story about this issue, "4 Really Important Things You Should Know about the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS Case." This part echoes what another attorney said on the radio show I was listening to.
3. The business community isn’t rooting for Hobby Lobby to win this one.
If the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby and agrees that corporations are people with religious convictions, the ruling would basically destroy what’s known as the corporate veil (which means to treat a corporation as a distinct entity from its owners or shareholders) — a precedent that would have far-ranging consequences.
Which may explain why corporate America has been unusually quiet about the case. As David H. Gans recently noted at Slate, “Not one Fortune 500 company filed a brief in the case. Apart from a few isolated briefs from companies just like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the U.S. business community offered no support for the claim that secular, for-profit corporations are persons that can exercise religion.”
The Chamber of Commerce and other groups — which were falling over themselves to file amicus briefs in support of Citizens United — likely recognize that a ruling for the corporate right to the free exercise of religion would cause complete chaos, both in terms of corporate governance and market stability. By treating corporations as the same thing as their owners, a ruling in support of Hobby Lobby wouldn’t just pierce the corporate veil, it would effectively shred it and light it on fire.
Hard to see how owners of corporations can have it both ways. They incorporate to avoid personal liability for business actions. A corporation can go bankrupt without bankrupting the owners of the business. It is a legal entity separate from the people who founded it.
Yet here are the owners of Hobby Lobby, demanding that the actions of their corporation in regard to providing health insurance be able to reflect their personal religious views. As noted above, it sure seems like this could have far-reaching legal effects.
My view of this issue, though, is based on something much simpler: an assumption that personal beliefs are just that, personal. Doesn't matter if they are called "religious." They're just personal beliefs. Your belief doesn't have any more importance or validity than mine does, or vice versa.
You can believe what you want; I can believe what I want. No problem.
Problems arise when a business or corporation forces employees or customers to adhere to the personal beliefs of its owners. This is what Hobby Lobby is trying to do. And that's wrong. Allowing this to happen would open the door to all kinds of discriminatory policies.
A Christian owner might believe that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, and he doesn't want to have them as customers. Or someone might have a personal religion centered around the supposed inferiority of non-whites. Should he be able to discriminate against them?
I hope the Supreme Court does the right thing and rules against Hobby Lobby. But I'm afraid they will give at least a partial victory to the Hobby Lobby owners, given the makeup of the court.