Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Supreme Court hears arguments in Hobby Lobby case for corporation's religious rights

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, where Hobby Lobby is challenging the Affordable Care Act's insurance coverage for birth control is violating the religious beliefs of the owners of Hobby Lobby, and that the company should be exempt from this birth control requirement.  This is from CBS
Two privately-held, for-profit companies -- Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. -- are suing the United States government over a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires large employers to offer their workers comprehensive health coverage, including contraception, or pay a fine. Hobby Lobby's owners, David and Barbara Green of Oklahoma, say they have strong objections based in their Christian faith to providing health care coverage for certain types of contraception. The Pennsylvania-based Hahn family, the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, have the same complaint.

For Christian conservatives, the cases represent the threat of government overreach.
"This case will decide whether a family gives up their religious freedom when they open a family business," Lori Windham, a senior counsel for the Becket Fund, which is representing Hobby Lobby, told CBS News. "The question here is whether the Green family can be forced to do something that violates their deeply held religious conviction as a consequence of the new health care law."
Reproductive rights advocates, meanwhile, consider the notion that some businesses could pick and choose which contraception methods to cover "out of touch [and] out of line," Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro Choice America, told reporters.
Contraception is "integral with our economic security and our ability to hold jobs for our lifetime," Hogue said. "We've had enough of this idea our reproductive health is somehow separate from our economic well being... Our bodies are not our bosses' business."
The two cases, however, have implications that go well beyond the so-called "wars" on women or religion. If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga prevail, it would prompt "a fundamental shift in the understanding of the First Amendment," David Gans, the civil rights director for the Constitutional Accountability Center, told CBS News.
That shift in thinking could open the floodgates for unprecedented protections for corporations that some say amount to a license to discriminate. The ramifications could be felt nationwide, in states that are enacting laws to shield businesses from regulations that may violate their "religious beliefs." Gov. Jan Brewer, R-Ariz., last month vetoed one such bill, which would have allowed Arizona businesses to refuse to serve gays on religious grounds. A number of other states across the country have been considering similar legislation.
The ramifications could theoretically go further than that. U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued in a brief to the court that siding with Hobby Lobby "would entitle commercial employers with religious objections to opt out of virtually every statute protecting their employees" -- such as laws that ban gender discrimination, minimum wage and overtime laws, the collection of Social Security taxes, or mandated health coverage for vaccinations.
This case certainly worries me.  The big question I would have to ask is, who defines a corporation's religious belief?  Hobby Lobby is a privately held company,  so I can see the Green family's religious argument against providing birth control.  But who defines a publicly-held corporation's religious belief?  The CEO?  The Board of Directors?  The shareholders?  Will such religious beliefs have to be placed up for a shareholder vote on the next shareholder meeting?  How does such religious beliefs in God, Satan, Original Sin, birth control, relate towards selling of shoes by Nike Corporation?  Wait--Jesus Christ wore shoes.  How does religious beliefs relate towards the selling of  iPhones and iPads by Apple Computer Corporation?

There have been a lot of arguments that I've read criticizing Hobby Lobby, and their arguments for corporate religious beliefs--Talking Points Memo, Huffington Post, Daily Kos has multiple postings on their site, and Americablog has four postings.  What worries me is that if the Supremes rule in favor of Hobby Lobby, then we may see that floodgate of corporate protections on taxes, discrimination, exemption on regulations on everything--all based on religious beliefs.  Corporations only believe in one God--and that is the God of Money!  They will say anything and do anything they can to accumulate even more of their God. 

And one more thing, the Supreme Court will rule 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby, with Justice Kennedy being the swing vote.  Because corporations are people too, my friend.

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