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The Hypocrisy of Hobby Lobby and Ruling on Religious Freedom

Updated on July 16, 2014
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From Justice Ginsburg's dissent

"Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)?"

Background

Recently the Supreme Court of the United States surprisingly ruled in a case that requiring companies to provide healthcare coverage including birth control to their employees violated the federal law that protects religious freedom. The lawsuit brought by Hobby Lobby and another corporation owned by a Christian was voted 5-4 by the mostly conservative Supreme court justices, and opened the door wide to other companies with religious owners, and may provoke a slippery slope for lawsuits in the future based solely on claimed "religious freedom"

In a nutshell, the court determined that a religious family that owns a business cannot be forced by law to cover contraceptive care to their female employees if they claim that it violates their religious beliefs.

In the decision, the majority position written by Justice Samuel Alito made it clear that the scope of the court's decision was extremely limited and that it would only apply to corporations that were run on a religious basis. He also made it clear that future cases challenging legal precedents based on solely religious grounds would likely fail to be successful. Writing for the minority, however, Justice Ruth Ginsburg criticized the majority position as a "dangerous overhaul of corporate rights" . She also questioned further legal proceedings that may be impacted by this decision, and criticized the fact that the decision seemed to set a precedent that allowed corporations to claim religious freedom - a right that was previously deemed necessary for individuals rather than corporate entities.

The Hobby Lobby case was also not unique - up to fifty other companies brought similar cases to court, and the cavalcade of new cases encouraged by this precedent is likely to be similarly astounding and potentially dangerous for employees and customers alike.

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Your Turn

What do you think of the Hobby Lobby ruling?

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Recognizing Misconceptions and Understanding the Significance:

A lot of people are left wondering what all of the controversy is about, claiming that contraceptives are relatively inexpensive - even without insurance coverage. Unfortunately, for many of the most effective contraceptives available, nothing could be further from the truth. For example, the IUD (which Hobby Lobby specifically objects to) can cost upwards of $500. Many women cannot use the typical hormonal pills typically prescribed - especially when unpleasant side effects are reported after use. In addition, not all women who use birth control are doing so to avoid pregnancy. Many women use contraceptives to counter the effects of real medical conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Endometriosis, skipped or missed periods (hormone birth control pills help regulate menstruation, cramps, PMS and acne.

It is true that the Hobby Lobby case specifically only objects to a limited number of birth control forms - and they also object to counseling for these forms of contraception. It is important to recognize, however, that there are well over a hundred companies that already have pending cases that oppose ALL forms of birth control across the board, regardless of medical necessity for those prescriptions. Many supporters of Hobby Lobby claim that the four types of birth control that the company opposes are all considered "abortifacient". Unfortunately, their definition of abortion does not fall in line with the medical definition. Also unfortunately, the four types that this specific case opposes have not even been shown to BE abortifacient in nature. Preventing ovulation cannot possibly terminate a pregnancy, since it disallows the pregnancy to begin in the first place.

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Specific Religious Freedom or Specific?

Would You Object to the Ruling if it was Based on a Muslim Objection?

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The Quote

According to Mother Jones:


"Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012 (see above)—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k)."

Oh, The Hypocrisy - Investments and the China Connection

In keeping with the apparent double standard of the religious right, articles have come to light which demonstrate the blatant hypocrisy of their lawsuit and their position on the grounds of religious freedom.

According to recent research which can be confirmed, Hobby Lobby's investment portfolio that it offers to its employee's 401K plan include investments to a number of companies that produce both abortion and contraceptive related products. The owners of Hobby Lobby maintain that their religious beliefs (that they pursued court relief in defense of) strongly oppose these types of contraceptive devises, and take a firm stand against all types of abortion. Not only does the company offer investments in these companies, but they also hold a rather substantial stake in the companies that manufacture them. They also offer a company match to these investments in their employee's retirement funds - a position that is untenable with their court documents that implicitly state that their religious beliefs are so opposed to devices and medications related to abortion that they sought protection of their rights to not provide them to their employees.

According to the Green family, interfering in any sense with a fertilized egg is indistinguishable from terminating a pregnancy - a position that they are indignantly opposed to on the grounds of their religious beliefs. The owners do not, however, seem to have a problem with profiting off of companies that manufacture and sell these products and medications. The amount of assets that Hobby Lobby has invested in the companies that manufacture these products is up to 75% of their 401K assets - that they match their employees investment in.

In another stunningly hypocritical move, the owners of Hobby Lobby are coming under fire from their own Christian supporters. Hobby Lobby maintains that they are a religious and proud company that touts the saying that profits take a backseat to people. Regardless of their blatant disregard for the people in their employ who have medical need for the birth control products they have now one a court victory not to provide, profits seem to indeed take a prominent place in the Hobby Lobby philosophy. A lot of the products that Hobby Lobby offers were not American-made offerings. They were made in China. The fact is that Chinese work factories offer deplorable conditions for minimal pay that often more closely resemble prisons than places of employment. To date, the company has refused to comply with requests to provide a list of the Chinese factories that manufacture its products.

Additionally (and ironically) Chinese abortion rates are well known, with the controversial and heated "one child policy" in place throughout the nation for well over forty years. It is estimated that over 300 million pregnancies have been terminated in China in the past fifty years. For a company that is willing to fight for its religious freedoms to refuse to provide contraceptives to its employees all the way to the supreme court, partnering with a company known for the very same thing - and worse - is incredibly hypocritical and controversial to a growing number of Christian patrons.

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© 2014 Julie McFarland

What Are Your Thoughts over the Hypocrisy in this Controversial Case?

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  • ChristinS profile image

    Christin Sander 2 years ago from Midwest

    Excellent, informative and I certainly hope that people will pay attention to the dangerous precedents this case has set. Some say it is limited to "privately held' corporations - making it sound like it is a small number. What most don't realize is that most of the corps. in this country are privately held. Scary.

  • JMcFarland profile image
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    Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

    Thanks, Christin. I think it's also important to note that this potentially opens the door to alternative religious beliefs as well, such as Muslim or Jewish beliefs and religious laws that go along with them. I find it ironically chilling that the same people that are standing up and cheering for the Hobby Lobby victory are the same people who would be screaming in frothy outrage if this victory was for a Muslim owned corporation discriminating against their possible Christian employees for differing beliefs.

  • ChristinS profile image

    Christin Sander 2 years ago from Midwest

    Absolutely they would - the hypocrisy seems to know no bounds. I want to see some other religions start pulling this stuff and see how fast the very same people cry foul. I am baffled by the idea that people think it's great that an employer can use their "religious beliefs" to deny you coverage an insurer would otherwise provide. I never believed this to be truly religious in nature either - more it's a convenient way to do an end run around the Affordable Care Act. Sad - for multitudes of reasons.

  • JMcFarland profile image
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    Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

    I completely agree, and I wait with trepidation to see where this unfortunate, dangerous precedent will lead in ongoing cases and new cases presented in the future.

  • gmwilliams profile image

    Grace Marguerite Williams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

    This is indeed a slippery slope as a result of the "decision" that the Supreme Court made. It is supposed to be a SEPARATE of church and state; sadly, America is slowly becoming a theocracy, bit by bit by bit. One's religion is a personal matter, not a company nor corporate matter. This ruling is DANGEROUS to say the least!

  • JMcFarland profile image
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    Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

    It was certainly a dangerous precedent to set, GM. Whether or not the slippery slope cases that are sure to follow expand this precedent or if it retreats upon itself when faced with more extreme examples of "religious freedom and rights of corporations" remains to be seen - but personally I am fearful of potential ramifications.

  • profile image

    mbuggieh 2 years ago

    I find SCOTUS' ruling to be most problematic in that it creates a ludicrous precedent---corporations are beings/people capable of moral and religious conviction and conscience AND corporations can regulate employee benefits (That is, benefits today and perhaps wages tomorrow. After all, how far behind is deference to corporations in terms of pay schedules for men, for women, for whites, for people of color, etc.) in terms of these claimed moral and religious convictions.

    And this is exactly what Hobby Lobby wanted.

    And Hobby Lobby is not alone in this.

    Another corporation---one presumed to be progressive, Eden Foods (organic foods) also pushed for this. The CEO of Eden Foods also claims moral opposition to birth control and abortion.

    When, however, pushed to specifically explain the religious foundations of his opposition to birth control the CEO could offer none---absolutely none.

  • M. T. Dremer profile image

    M. T. Dremer 2 years ago from United States

    It is completely ridiculous how much we've been relying on the supreme court lately to govern this country. With congress a completely dead branch of the system, its fallen on the justices to decide nearly every divisive issue over the last six years. And, instances like this hobby lobby case (and citizens united) prove that the Judicial Branch was never meant to do this. Yet, rather than fix this problem, the crazies get crazier and the sensible people get more apathetic towards government, thus handing elections over to the crazies. It's a toxic cycle that is tearing our government apart from the inside.

  • profile image

    sheilamyers 2 years ago

    I can see a religious right if it meant having to cover things such as the morning after pill or abortions, but not contraceptives. You point out all of the reasons the Hobby Lobby deal makes no sense. I wasn't aware of the things you mentioned such as their products being made mostly in China and the 401k. It all makes sense and does make the hypocritical.

  • profile image

    retief2000 2 years ago

    Hobby Lobby's objection is to abortofaciants, not contraceptives. The insurance they provide their employees covers most birth control medications, just not those usually described as "the morning after pill." As for 401Ks, employers do not manage the MUTUAL FUNDS in which employees contributions are invested. The employee does that. Nor do employers manage the individual stocks or bonds in which those contributions are invested, the Mutual Fund manager does that.

    As for corporations being people, blame Congress. The Supreme Court did not pass this idea into law, Congress did. Hobby Lobby is a family owned corporation, not a publicly traded one.

  • JMcFarland profile image
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    Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

    Retief, it doesn't appear that you actually read the article where this was discussed. Thanks.

  • Mitch Alan profile image

    Mitch Alan 2 years ago from South Jersey

    Can you show me, in the Constitution, where the federal government has the specific ennumetated power to force a person or business to purchase ANY product or service (Including health insurance)?

  • JMcFarland profile image
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    Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

    Ask a constitutionalist. I'm not one, nor is that what this hub is about

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