The FFRF’s take on the Hobby Lobby decision

June 30, 2014 • 8:59 am

While sitting here polishing the prose of my book, I’m nagged by the dreadful decision announced today by the Supreme Court (see the New York Times story). What they’ve done is not only classified corporations as people (something they did in an earlier decision about campaign donations), but also classified them as religious people: firms that can control on religious grounds the working conditions and benefits of their employees.

This seems to me to violate the very freedom of religion that the Founders wrote into the Constitution. Can a Christian Science business refuse to give their employees any conventional medical care? After all, they don’t believe that disease or injury is real, but are illusions curable by prayer. Can a Scientologist-owned firm refuse psychiatric coverage for its employees? After all, Scientologists see psychiatry as repugnant and useless.

I could go on, but today I’m really afraid for America: afraid that, due solely to our Supreme Court, we are becoming a theocracy. And given the court’s status as the last legal resort in America, only the legislature  (also highly religious) can effect change. But in this case, since the ruling is on Constitutional grounds, I doubt that even Congress could affect it. [Note: the preceding sentence is wrong: Congress could amend the law by overturning the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allows people to get exemptions from Federal Law; see here.]

What can we do? The FFRF just put out a “call to action,” which I’ll reproduce here. Please consider taking some of the steps they suggest, including joining the FFRF itself, which you can do here.  And also consider boycotting the horrible firms involved in this decision: Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties.

Here’s the FFRF’s bulletin:

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 10.46.12 AM Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 10.46.41 AM Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 10.46.56 AM


124 thoughts on “The FFRF’s take on the Hobby Lobby decision

  1. Looking on the bright side, this decision may put Hobby Lobby out of business. Most of its customers are women, many of whom (and I’d hope many of the male customers too) will henceforth shop elsewhere. My quilting, knitting, sewing and crafting wife and I did exactly this as soon as Hobby Lobby brought its loathsome case.

    Now, if only someone could think of a way to appoint us a new and rational SCOTUS . . .

        1. Hobby Lobby isn’t expressing bigotry to ANY of its costumers. It is expressing bigotry towards female employees.

          1. Look up the difference between “expressing toward” and “exercising upon”; you’ll find the meanings are excitingly disparate.

            But please forget about it. Please.

            1. There’s a distinction with very little difference.

              Interested in putting some money down on a friendly bet?… Whether this decision puts Hobby Lobby out of business in the next, say two years? Hell, I’ll be generous and not even demand “out of business”. We can just use “hurt enough to close a third of their stores.”

              1. I asked you to forget about it. I even said please. I beg you now. I do not find it worth discussing your “argument” any further.

              2. What were we discussing?

                Oh… I remember now. If you want to end a conversation say “Here’s what I think, now I beg of you, shut up.”

    1. You’d think that but sadly women can be very fanatical in imposing things that go direct against their own self interests because they are just as much a part of the ideology as the men.

      1. BTW, I have proposed that women who side with conservatives in working against the interests of women be called “Serena Joy” after the Atwood character.

          1. I bet that

            The Handmaid’s Tale

            is on a large number of (religious) schools’ banned-from-the-library lists.

      2. Yes, but let’s assume 80% of HL’s customers are women, and that of those a maximum 50% will go along with the frightwing ideology. That’s still 40% of its customers that are at risk for HL.

      3. It is extraordinary and sad that half the population of humanity has for so long of recorded history been subjugating by religiously motivated laws. You would rationally think that women and conservative Christian are orthogonal terms.

        1. And women consistently show up as more religious and less atheistic than men in surveys the world over. I wish a social scientist would root cause this one.

          1. Indeed, I understand (from a recent student seminar) that it is older women who are largely responsible for much if not most female genital mutilation.

            1. Those answers seem somewhat speculative to me. They both appeared to not provide enough convincing evidence that these were causations and not correlations. The first article seemed extra speculative and it made me a bit queasy in its suggestions. There needs to be more statistical analysis put into this I think.

              1. I don’t disagree with you, Diana. Those are only two of the first three at the top of my google list, and I didn’t make any attempt at all to sift through everything available to present the best from top to bottom. It is fairly early days for this sort of research, but there is also more research/results available than just those two items. Social scientists, like you and me and lots of others, are curious about gender differences re religiosity, and some are working the subject like beavers.

              2. I can’t give those beavers super-high props for their ingenuity in this instance. Yes, acquiring and deploying a satellite dish sets them apart from any other beaver homeowner I’m aware of.


                They went to all that trouble and expense (high risk of electrocution, too) to wire electricity along the stream bottom out to the lodge for their TV set, even though efficient & affordable solar panels are readily available. Clearly the superior option for the Castor canadensis lifestyle, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver.

              3. In the 1980s some of my books were published by a company called Beaver Books. Although it was in fact a children’s imprint (part of what’s now Random UK), I’ve encountered so, so, so much misunderstanding about this.

          2. It has been established that more economically insecure societies are more religious, it would seem straightforward to extrapolate that to individuals, and women are more economically insecure than men. They are more likely to be poor, and be single parents than men. Their role as primary care-giver of children may also make them more insecure, as children being well known “hostages to fortune”, provide an opportunity for unparallelled disaster not experienced in any other way. But really just their economic circumstances are sufficient explanation of their heightened religiosity.

    2. realthog, I’d extend your comment to something the FFRF left off their list of actions: BOYCOTT any firm that uses this ruling in a destructive way

  2. You have got to be fucking shitting me.

    The Supremes actually decided for Hobby Lobby?

    God damn.

    You know what? I think I may well be receiving a divine revelation this very moment that income taxes are a tool of Satan, and to pay them is against my sincerest religious convictions.


      1. Yeah, but we’ve got new case law with a new precedent. Religious nutters are already preparing to challenge anti-discrimination laws based on this ruling. If they succeed with that, then there’s literally nothing you couldn’t get away with in the name of religious liberty — at least, not if you’re a “closely held corporation.” Which I, as the sole owner and officer and everything else of Ben Goren, Inc., an Arizona corporation, just happen to be….


    1. Yes. It is still too early to count the damages that administration caused to the US, and much of the rest of the world. The SC it left us with may end up being the most damaging thing yet. And that is saying a lot.

  3. As an outsider looking in I’m still baffled how these right wing religious lunatics have managed to gain so much power. There’s plenty wrong on this side of the Atlantic but US looks completely FUBB.

    1. George W. Bush nominated Roberts and Alito. Reagan nominated Scalia and Kennedy. Poppy Bush nominated Thomas.

      This is the product of decades of Republican pandering to Christian theocrats.

    2. As seems to be rather typical of human societies in general, the majority of people don’t take part in the political process. That majority is typically fairly moderate politically, and decent. But for various reasons they don’t speak up, unless not until late in a crisis, often too late.

      Meanwhile the people at the extremes of the spectrum are the ones with the motivation to seek authority and power over others.

      It would probably be better to exclude from political office anyone who wants it.

      1. That majority is typically fairly moderate politically, and decent. But for various reasons they don’t speak up, unless not until late in a crisis, often too late.

        There’s a line that always really sticks with me from Sinclair Lewis’s incredible novel It Can’t Happen Here. The USA has been taken over by a fascist ruler. Small-town newspaper editor Doremus Jessup has done nothing to counter it, assuming things’ll just sort themselves out like always. More or less as he’s being led off to the concentration camp, he muses that the fascist overthrow of US democracy was made possible by “all the Doremus Jessups”.

        As true today as it was then.

        1. The Movie, “Good” explores the same theme with Viggo Mortensen playing someone who thinks things will sort themselves out as he slowly is brought into the SS.

  4. What they’ve done is not only classified corporations as people (something they did in an earlier decision about campaign donations), but also classified them as religious people…

    …Can a Christian Science business refuse to give their employees any conventional medical care?

    Alito seems to have been concerned about exactly these counter-arguments, and wrote text into the ruling about them. I offer the following point NOT as a defense of the ruling (I don’t agree with it), but rather clarification or perhaps for ‘know thy enemy’ purposes.

    First, he says this ruling protects the religious freedom of the human owners of a business, not the corporation-as-entities. This is the “closely held” bit.

    Second, he says that the general logic here is that requiring medical coverage against an owner’s religious beliefs must be the ‘least burdensome solution’ the government could impose for some public health problem. He says that when it comes to birth control, the government has not shown that this is the least burdensome solution but that for other public health issues like vaccination, requiring coverage may be.

    All in all, I think what the conservative judges have tried to do here is create so much gray area that in future cases they can rule arbitrarily/by whim, because no matter what they decide they can use some bit of this case to justify it. Don’t like abortion coverage? Its not least burdensome. Do like blood transfusions and don’t like Jehovah’s Witnesses? Then its least budensome. Or maybe those JW’s don’t hold their company close enough.

    IOW this seems like a precedent designed to be wishy-washy enough to let them support any legally required medical treatment they like, while allowing thme to rule ‘unconstitutional’ on any medical treatment they don’t like.

    The only way I could see to get them to make good, consistent calls in the future would be if a circuit court bundled several cases together, mixing in (for example) an abortion case and blood transfusion case and asking SCOTUS to rule on the two as a set.

  5. For information, HERE is the syllabus, ruling, Kennedy’s concurrence, and Ginsburg’s dissent. The entire pdf is 95 pages long.

    1. A minefield? That would suggest that there will be difficulties and struggles ahead. That’s very optimistic. Personally, I have complete confidence that the Catholic court can sift through religious decisions coming before them and render the Catholic decision with ease. Probably before they finish their morning coffee.

  6. Started reading Kennedy’s concurrence. Couple of things strike me right off the bat. First, Kennedy starts his concurrence by defending the rights of theists and ignoring atheists and non-believers: he parses the first amendment protection as a right to believe in God. Bad start. Bad sign for future rulings.

    Second, slightly better news: he seems very supportive of the government’s method of dealing with religious non-profits (which already had the exemption Hobby Lobby was trying to get). That method is to tell health insurance companies that they must provide free supplementary insurance to these employees that would cover the “missing” employment coverage of contraception. Put succinctly, the HL case means women have lost “automatic in” coverage for contraception, but going by what Kennedy says, they can still expect a 5-person majority on SCOTUS to support a “free to the employee, but supplementary and must be opted in” coverage for contraception.

    Which is annoying and crappy, but is still better than what existed before ACA and RFRA, which was no requirement for health insurers to even cover contraception at all, and large co-pays when they did cover it.

    1. Okay, just finished it. There isn’t much more than that. Kennedy basically says that because the USG already put in place the free, supplementary, opt-in system for women working in religious non-profit organizations, they cannot claim that forcing HL to supply coverage is the only solution or even least burdensome solution, because the religious non-profit solution works and is less burdensome on employer religious rights.

      Never mind that (AIUI) psychological studies show that opt-in vs. opt-out will significantly change people’s sign up rates, and that having to get and manage two separate insurance plans is going to be very burdensome on thousands of women employees – compared to a few owners the other system would have burdened.

      1. I am wondering if a motive here was to chip away at the ACA / Obamacare. Conservatives are bent on making their dire claims about Obamacare come true no matter how much effort it takes.

        1. Could be, but I think its more simple and more venal. They have catholic cultural/heritage biases, don’t think people ought to be forced to pay for someone else’s BC coverage, and will interpret the law to get the result they want.

  7. I’ve long avoided Hobby Lobby. It’s always struck me as an poorly-run organization; the stores are drab and the employees are apathetic. The overall store is just depressing.

    Most companies that I know of that are “religious” are just as poorly run, with Chick-fil-A being an exception.

  8. I disagree with the ruling as well, but it just points out the lunacy of having health insurance associated with an employer.

    This anachronistic convention from the wage-control WWII era needs to go away. Employees need to purchase their own health insurance just like do homeowners and car insurance.

    Why on earth do I want my employer knowing what medical procedures I’ve had or what coverage I need or what medications I’m taking? This case is proof that employers don’t have the best interests of their employees in mind.

    1. I think that, thanks to ACA, we’ll get there eventually. Today’s companies provide health insurance plans because it’s expected. But I bet as time goes on more and more will start providing a rebate to employees and tell them to go purchase their own insurance on the exchange. That’s got to cut down on their HR department labor, and they already provide a ‘buy out’ option for employees who are military vets or who use their spouse’s insurance.

      I think this is the real, long-term impact of ACA. Right now corporate plans tend to be better than the exchange or provide the exact same coverage for cheaper. But ACA will eventually kill most forms of employment-based coverage because its simply easier and cheaper for the company to “contract out” HR managament of employee health insurance to the exchange.

      And – here’s some irony – I expect that this trend will be lead in the future by conservative companies like Hobby Lobby. Because the only thing they’ll like more than providing crappy coverage to their employees for a cost of $200/month will be to cut a check to each employee for $150/month and tell them to go find their own health insurance.

  9. I have to say that I was hoping it would go the other way, too. That said, this isn’t a First Amendment issue (yet) for the employees. They have no First Amendment right to birth control provided by their employers. On the other hand it does seems like an imposition on employers (closely held companies) to make them pay for birth control, if they view it as immoral. Employees can still get birth control through their insurance, although they have to pay.

    What this does do, is set the scene for a de facto requirement for employers to put statements out about whether or not the corporation considers birth control to be an issue (like an EEOC disclaimer). You can’t have potential employees raising this as an issue in interviews, as that would be a discussion of religious beliefs. This will maker it harder for some employers to hire.

    Also, a lot of people groan about the person status of corporations, which is not a new thing. Very little attention is paid to positive aspects of that, such as being able to sue one “person” rather than naming a board of directors, a management team, various other actor employees, and potentially stockholders as individuals.

    1. That said, this isn’t a First Amendment issue (yet) for the employees.

      That doesn’t make what HL is doing constitutional. I believe that all sorts of employment discrimination have been ruled unconstitutional under the fourteenth amendment’s equal protection clause. It would seem to me that covering condoms for men but not birth control for women should be a pretty slam-dunk case of employment discrimination.

      Well, it would be if the court didn’t have five conservative male catholics on it.

        1. Ack, no, that’s not right. Good catch. HHS argues that the reason birth control should be covered is that its significantly more costly than male contraception, and thus not covering it places an unequal and unfair burden on female employees.

          1. Is Viagra and its ilk covered?

            (Wouldn’t HL and its ilk want that item removed from the benefits offered to an unmarried male employee?)

            1. Of course Viagra is covered. That’s not a ladies drug. HL is only concerned about controlling products used by women.

              1. Yes, thanks so much.

                I simply wanted to confirm that Viagra was covered. Hadn’t seen/heard it mentioned in any news, and I’ve assiduously kept my ear to the ground. Again, I can’t imagine the HL hierarchy being pleased to discover that a single male employee is using Viagra.

              2. Oh, I doubt they care at all. Boys will be boys. It is the women who need guidance and control.

              3. I agree with you on that; it would just be nice to get them on record saying that.

              4. If I owned one, I would bet The Farm that litigants in Hobby Lobby, their legal counsel, all 5 of the SCOTUS Freaks who think as one re religion, and everybody else in America who agrees with this ruling firmly believe that Inner City males and males at the low end of the economic scale (a rapidly increasing number, by the way) ought to be either abstaining from procreative activity (iow practicing celibacy, even if married) or, at minimum, following the rhythm method of birth control (insert favorite joke here).

                Go on the record about that, though? Well, maybe. But even these dimwits suspect this sort of opinion publicly expressed is maybe an unwelcome challenge to alpha male behavioral privilege — i.e., implied criticism of the viagra user engaging in sex for non-procreative purposes.

                Any male screwing anytime just for his personal pleasure is rarely commented upon (except for those males who father children they do not solely financially support), because to comment upon that is to judge peers who expect privilege for personal sexual intercourse decisions. Women screwing at will for personal pleasure, on the other hand, are just sluts valuable for sexual release purposes but otherwise contemptible.

            2. Viagra is covered under the ACA. The “closely held” Hobby Lobby litigants are silent regarding the purpose, efficacy, and ethics of Viagra medication, as are co-litigants from other Christian people-formerly-known-as-corporate-entities.

              This hypocrisy is actually at least matched, if not exceeded, by other Hobby Lobby corporate (person?) policy []:

              ‘It’s also funny how the religious righteousness melts away when it comes to money. Turns out that Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) employee retirement plan, according to documents filed with the Labor Department and written about by Mother Jones, is heavily invested in the very pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the products the company refuses to cover for its employees.

              Yup, Hobby Lobby has about $73 million invested in the company that makes the Plan B morning-after pill, another that makes a copper IUD, the maker of the abortion-inducing drugs and health companies that cover surgical abortions.’

              1. From National Public Radio’s 6/30/14 “All Things Considered”:

                ” . . . we go to suburban St. Louis, where there was a grand opening of a Hobby Lobby store today – the company’s 605th . . . The ceremony started the same way every Hobby Lobby grand opening does – with a prayer from a member of the company’s in-house ministry. Today, it was Winston Hackett.

                WINSTON HACKETT: We always, prior to cutting the ribbon, ask the Lord to bless our new stores. We live in a land of the free. We have the liberty and the right to do this . . . .”

                [I gather that the IRS considers the salaries of these “in-house ministry” employees to be legitimate business expense. Just how busy are they? (Senior executives too busy to offer up prayers and supplications? Store managers not sufficiently senior or pious?) To whom do they “minister” – employees who do not wish to be proselytized, but who tolerate it because they do not wish to lose their jobs?]

    2. It makes sense to argue that employers should not be held responsible for providing health care for employees. But, that is where we are right now. We can’t suddenly change things without causing big problems, and something like single payer would never fly with voters or congress at the moment anyway. As said above that is the direction ACA was intended to take us in.

      But, it makes no sense to allow employers to be able to choose what is or isn’t included in a healthcare plan. Employer’s do not pay for the healthcare. The healthcare is paid for by the services rendered by the employee. The cost is part of the compensation of the employee for their work.

      Also, reducing access to contraception is more costly for the system as a whole, i.e. it also sucks from a pragmatic point of view.

      To top it off, using the power of the state to enforce some individuals’ religiously inspired values on others, which is exactly what has happened here, is also unethical and certainly does go against the intent of the Constitution.

    3. “Also, a lot of people groan about the person status of corporations, which is not a new thing. Very little attention is paid to positive aspects of that.”

      I would suggest that you might have a read of “Wealth by Stealth: Corporate Crime, Corporate Law and the Perversion of Democracy” by Prof Harry Glasbeek (written for the Canadian situation. Interestingly chap 1 is entitled “The Corporation as Invisible Friend”. Spolier alert – it is not pro-corporations.

  10. It’s a double whammy. We are living in a theocracy and corporatocracy. Frankenstein corporations now have legally enforced religious opinions to shove down our throats, along with the already unlimited ability to buy elections. Freedom for the few, poverty and limitations for everyone else.

  11. “Come out of the closet as a freethinker”

    This is the best advice, I think. We’ve all become too complacent thinking that the Supreme Court would protect our rights. Given that justices are appointed by popularly elected political figures, it was only a matter of time before their views reflected those of the population at large.

    Our goal should always have been to persuade the population at large, rather than winning legal battles.

    1. I definitely agree with the last sentiment. Fighting legal battles is useful, both for the direct good they can do and to make people aware of the issues, but if you don’t persuade enough people along the way such victories may prove fleeting. The constitution is a fine thing, but it is just paper.

      1. I just joined today too, but from Texas. Also wrote to the Dallas Morning News, for what it’s worth. We have a local Hobby Lobby that I will not be patronizing any more. Which sucks, because I like to knit and there aren’t many other local yarn outlets. There’s always the internet!

  12. Why don’t I start a business and voice my faith that all diseases are caused by demons and witches, so my employees don’t need health insurance period, just a dose of the right kind of intercessory prayer. How dare the evil government deny me the right to deny my workers health insurance due to my deeply held religious convictions.

  13. Well, here is one good thing. I hate to be so one-issued about this, but, being gay, I do fear all our victories in the past 10 years being dissolved by religious zealots who want to use this ruling to marginlize us.

    Alito, in his majority opinion, made explicit that companies cannot use the decision to avoid laws that prohibit discrimination.

    I’m happy he wrote that at least — though it should go without saying. In the back of my head, I never underestimate the level of indoctrination (and vitriol) that the “Good Book” instills into its adherents. But not all states protect gays from being fired just for being gay. The Senate passed a bill (ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) last year, but it stalled and then was blocked by the Republican House.

    1. I think your concern is well placed. Personally I don’t know how much faith I’d put in Alito’s caveat because it is hard to see how the same logic wouldn’t apply to laws prohibiting discrimination too. How does he draw so fine a line between religious views the state can trump and those it can not? I know the religious themselves view their right to discriminate against gays as every bit as central to who they are as their right to not have to pay for Plan-B.

      1. Exactly.

        People I’ve been arguing with have been trying to tell me that the context is very narrow, only applies to BC, only these specific “actors”, etc.

        But if I were a lawyer (IANAL) hired by some other religiously-run corporation, I’d feel on solid ground citing this decision as precedent for any of the possible religious exemptions Ginsburg mentioned in her dissent, inter alia.

    1. Yes. They had several non-US members at the annual conference. From Canada, Australia and somewhere in Europe, if I remember right.

      1. From their web site:

        International Members: There is no extra charge for membership (select a category above) if you choose to receive FFRF newspaper/publications as PDFs sent via email. If you prefer paper versions sent via postal service, the dropdown list below shows the additional costs. See “Total amount” after selecting your location in the dropdown.

        1. Just joined twice without receipt so dunno if I’m in or out yet. 🙂

          40$ per year well spent.

  14. Proud Englishman as I am, this is yet another occasion – there have been many – when I regret that I can’t join the FFRF. There’s no really comparable organisation over here, though that’s because in the de jure religious but de facto secular UK (the polar opposite situation to the USA) there would be little need for it.

    1. Oh, wait … just seen post 19 and its replies. That’ll teach me to read more carefully in future 🙂

    1. my husband was thinking the same thing. it seems that our judicial idiots have decided to hide from the problems their ruling has opened. They seem to think that they can just refuse to hear any case that would involve other religions and other demands to recognize religious opinions.

      There is no reason to think that one can’t say that “I’m Muslim and I won’t hire women because of my religion. The conservatives on the SCOTUS has made it so sharia can be used as law.

      1. Your last sentence, club…, sums up the point of my question entirely. Surely, this decision could be challenged on the usual basis that you’d have to privilege any old religion you’d want? It’s the same argument with which everyone on this site is familiar.

        The good thing is that this debate is in the DNA of Americans – at least if the commenters on this site are in any way representative of the general way that Yanks think about legal decisions. It refers to the constitution and to the amendments.

        I’d like to read what an American legal expert would say: and how confident s/he would be that it could be overturned. And there are legal experts who comment here.

        Here in Britain, by contrast, the situation is far fuzzier: we don’t have written amendments to point to in order to cry ‘foul’. So the argument almost has to begin from scratch every time it turns up: youse Statesiders can at least point to this or that founding document and blow the whistle. Youse start from far further up the pitch.

        1. “Surely, this decision could be challenged on…”

          Um, no. That’s not possible. This decision will stand, at minimum, until someone on the present court dies.

          1. Correction:

            Apparently this ruling was based not on the constitutional “free exercise of religion” clause but on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. As such, a new congress could simply repeal or alter that law and so change the legal background for the ruling. That would open it up to being re-heard on constitutional grounds. This is very unlikely.

            If the Supreme Court ruled this way on constitutional grounds that would be the end of the story because amending the constitution is less likely than me becoming the owner of Hobby Lobby and there is no where else to challenge a Supreme Court decision on constitutional law.

            1. In order to repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, surely one would first have to rename it.

        2. you are correct, we are lucky to be up the pitch. 🙂 there is the argument that eric made about there being another mechanism that can provide birth control and that’s why the SCOTUS decided as it did. But if one says that there is no other mechanism and that is why a JW or a Christian scientist can’t deny blood transfusions, it shows that one religion is being favored. Why can’t they demand that there be a gov’t mechanism for their religious nonsense, and on and on?

          1. They can demand it, and if their wheel is squeaky enough, they’ll get some grease.

            But I also think it’s in the nature of religious accommodation that some legal judgement calls have to be made on quantitative (how many objectors) grounds rather than qualitative (is it religious) grounds. If you get 10,000 religious objections to parts of ACA and 9,999 of them complain about the same part, it makes sense to me that the government make an accommodation for that part, but not necessarily the part that got one complaint.

            Think of it this way: for practical reasons, you can’t give every kid a different school calendar of holidays. That would be chaos. You accommodate Christmas and a couple other big events from other relgions that sweep in 99% of the religious complaints, and leave it at that. Same thing here. I don’t want 500 different health care rider policies that I have to keep track of because every different religious objection spurred the creation of a separate rider policy. Zero is the ideal, but if I can’t have zero riders, I want one. If I can’t have one, I want two. And so on.

            So the longer answer to your ‘why can’t…’ question is that while the groups can always ask, the courts may not grant an exception for processes that they think only a very few people will object to. The ACA’s rider policy for contraception didn’t arise due to the five people who own Hobby Lobby, it came about due to the hundreds of catholic and protestant nonprofits that lobbied for it. It represents a relatively loud squeak.

            1. I’m not sure I see the connection between school holidays and this decision. School years are set at 180 days. Kids are allowed to stay home without penalty to observe their religious holidays. From a secular viewpoint, it would make sense to maximize attendance and base breaks around a schedule that accomplishes it. It’s not as if one religion is favored in that they are allowed to not follow the law while others have it mandated.

              Despite that, I have heard conplaints, even in my own family, when school runs through December 23. Believe it or not, this is labeled as discrimination against Christians since it is so close to Christmas. I also would certainly agree that having Federal Holidays based on Christmas and Easter is favoring a religion, but not so much with the school schedule.

      2. This is all IMO, but…

        …I doubt this supreme court will allow that. They’ll interpret their ruling narrowly in order to support catholic beliefs about conception and women’s rights, but not to support other beliefs. Fortunately or not, they aren’t going to carve out an exception to general law that benefits any other religious beliefs other than their own.

        Both Alito and Kennedy said that part of the reason the USG cannot force employers to provide birth control (BC) coverage is because there is another system already in place to provide supplementary health care coverage for contraception; Obama put it in ACA to allow women employees of religious non-profits to get free BC. But no such supplementary system exists for any other type of health care service, so it would be very easy for Alito and Kennedy to say to Muslims or Jehovah’s witnesses or anyone else, ‘hey, since there’s no alternative remedy, you don’t get an exemption.’

        1. It’s very easy for lawyers to argue that black is white.

          I will not be surprised if this decision is cited as precedent for other religious exemptions.

          1. It will, of course. And some will win. But only the ones the court is sympathetic to. So it is definitely true that we have no need to fear that sharia will govern the workplace, or any other minority religious view. Those minority religious views will be out of luck. But I would bet any sum of money that it will be used, successfully, to find other Christian religious exemptions to federal law.

            1. Yes exactly. I think the conservatives on the court will only use the precedent to carve out exceptions they agree with. So you might see this being used to exclude abortion coverage, but you aren’t going to see it being used to allow some company to not cover transfusions or whatever, because the court agrees with that sort of medical procedure.

              1. IOW, a theocracy. One religion is established in law. The others don’t count.

          1. Show to whom? We already know that. Christians don’t care. The Christian court won’t care.

      3. Logically, yes. Practically this is no worry for the court at all. Cases will indeed come to them from lower courts that they can’t ignore (some lower court judge will rule in favor of sharia or some other thing that offends them), but it will trouble them very little to hear the case and invent reasons why, no, sharia doesn’t count, or doesn’t count in the case before them. Similarly, they will find reasons why, yes, this does apply to people denying services to gays, etc. They can, and will, do this until they die.

        1. You hit on the core offense of this ruling. It is arbitrary in support of Catholic dogma and explicitly allows them room to void religious principles they deem offensive. The depth of the stupid in this decision is profound.

  15. The hypocrisy of Hobby Lobby et al in this disgusts me. They are, for example, quite happy to make profits by selling products made in China, which enforces both contraception and abortion.

    The alignment of health insurance with business in the US is something I’ve never really understood. Most developed countries don’t do this. The quality of their health care is just as good and often better, and always much less expensive. The health industry in general appears to be rorting the entire population of your country.

    IMO the US Supreme Court has chosen theocracy over secularism and employers over employees. This does not bode well for your country in the short term, although it may mean, as someone else has already suggested, a separation of health care provision and business/employment, which would be a good move long term imo.

    1. “The alignment of health insurance with business in the US is something I’ve never really understood.”

      Inertia. It started out as a benefit offered by employers. Now after decades of many different players (employers, insurance companies, healthcare companies, government, unions, more) all working to game the system to get a bigger slice of the pie, you’ve got such a massive tangled mess now that it looks to be unfixable.

      A major clue to just how fucked up things are, how obvious it is that the crooks own the system, is business plan rates vs individual rates. The whole idea with business plans is supposed to be that you have larger pools of people and therefore lower costs for all. However, for my entire adult life it has always, every single time, been significantly less expensive for me to get an individual plan, with equivalent or slightly better coverage, than to put myself under my wife’s employer’s business plan.

  16. A Harvard Business Review article offers some hope:

    For most closely held firms, religious exemptions will take a back seat to this balancing act, between costs and talent. According to a recent Journal of the American Medical Association poll, 69% of Americans support the Affordable Care Act’s policy of mandated contraception coverage, and only 7.8% supported all benefits except contraception — the Hobby Lobby position.

  17. It’s a sad, sad day for my country. The one small Silver Lining is Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion. Read it if you haven’t – it’s a masterpiece. She rips the majority decision.

  18. The point about various flavors of religious employers seeking to withhold coverage for other kinds of (any) medication or medical treatment is one of the most important to consider, it seems to me. And so I’m concerned that much of the commentary surrounding this decision (at other sites) doesn’t address this point at all! People (even one confirmed atheist) on my FB feed are bending over backward to point out things wrong with this decision While not addressing the religious angle.

    Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room.

  19. I haven’t visited a Hobby Lobby in years. Luckily, we also have a Michael’s and a brand new Joann’s that take care of all of my crafting needs, without the Jebus.

  20. Freedom of religion owes its existence to freedom from religion. That is how I interpret the first amendment.

  21. Before we get all bent out of shape about this ruling, here’s a blog post by Ed Brayton which says how the Obama Administration can make this ruling moot (in fact, Alito alluded to this in his opinion), without even having to go to Congress. Not being a constitutional legal beagle, I have no idea whether this makes any sense, although he did run it by a constitutional law professor.

    1. The damage is done, regardless. For one thing, the difference between adoption rates under an “opt-in” vs. “opt-out” strategy is significant.

      Furthermore, even if an administrative solution was 100% effective, the precedent is set… the SCOTUS has granted religious-based exemption to a law that the rest of us all need to follow. Despite Alito’s claim that this isn’t a precedent, it is.

  22. The separation of church and state be damned. Is it the job of government to give religious protections to a few corporate owners to dictate to its employees what universal healthcare benefits god will now allow them them get? It is only the small majority in the Supreme Court that has shown us greater disdain for the rights afforded us in our US Constitution.

Leave a Reply