When Religion Strays too Far: The Hobby Lobby Aftermath

SpringArborIt’s sufficiently dismaying that the Supreme Court via its Hobby Lobby decision has further defined corporate entities as people, and thus with inherent individual rights.

Not only do corporations have unlimited spending rights when it comes to elections, but with the Hobby Lobby ruling, for-profit corporations can now refuse to observe government mandates under the ACA to provide birth control coverage in health coverage for their employees on religious grounds. (Religious non-profits were previously exempted under the law.)

Intriguingly, the majority decision that denigrates a woman’s sovereignty over her own body was made by five men, all of them Catholics.

We can only speculate the slippery slope the Court may have set in motion. In fact, it suggests that for-profit corporations with moral or religious scruples are now free to discriminate in hiring gays or even divorced people. They might even opt to dismiss those opting for abortion or living with a significant other, or terminating their marriage.

At the very least, the Court’s decision establishes a precedent for the expansion of exclusion rights, and not just with regard to corporations, since the underlying assumption is based upon the notion of a person’s right to his or her convictions and corporations are now people.

Historically, following upon a corporate scandal, Congress in 1907 passed a measure forbidding corporate investment in federal elections, which held until 1978 when the high court ruled that corporations have First Amendment rights to finance state ballot initiatives. Even then, only individuals or groups of individuals–political action committees–could do so.

Then came the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in 2010, granting corporations unlimited spending rights in all elections, federal, state or local.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court had never in any similar case ruled a for-profit corporation to be a religious entity for purpose of exclusion from federal law. The Justice Department, in fact, contended it would be unable to effectively enforce other laws affecting child labor, immunization, serving racial minorities, or income tax laws requiring universal compliance regardless of how government spends the money.

It’s bad enough as is that in the non-corporate sector, even though Title IX bars schools that receive federal funds (e.g, public student loans and Pell grants) from discriminating against transgender and gays, there exists a specific exemption for religious colleges who find such mandates incompatible with their religious beliefs.

Consequently, the Department of Education has recently granted exemptions to George Fox University, Simpson University, and Spring Arbor University. Since there are a good number of evangelical colleges that fall under the religious umbrella, it’s likely there will be many more exemptions.

Unfortunately, the dark side of religion is often one of imposing beliefs on others, and its history continues stained with violence and intolerance.

We know that majorities can constitute their own tyranny, but so can minorities. Hence Congress needs to review the laws governing these exemptions and narrow their scope.




Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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