April 11, 2015 / 2014 / June / Anticipating the Hobby Lobby Decision

Anticipating the Hobby Lobby Decision

submitted June 20, 2014 by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1>Anticipating the Hobby Lobby Decision</h1>

As a member of the Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute for 2014, I have pledged to raise the voice of our faith community on issues of reproductive justice. This post is a preview of the Supreme Court's upcoming Hobby Lobby decision from my perspective.


I’ve written previously about the Hobby Lobby case pending before the Supreme Court. With a decision on the case due any day now, it’s a good time to revisit the case and make some predictions.

Vox has an efficient summary of the issues at stake in this case. In addition, Vox notes the following (Card 13):

More broadly, the birth control mandate decision could have wide-reaching implications for religious and civil rights if the Supreme Court moves to expand — or narrow — who has RFRA protection. If the Supreme Court does find that companies have standing under RFRA, it could set new precedent for business owners to challenge other federal laws they believe to restrict their practice of religion.

I think this is a critical point in determining how the Supreme Court will rule. If companies can simply choose which laws they follow according to their own moral beliefs, our system of governance becomes impossible. I think this condition alone is enough for the Supreme Court to rule the birth control mandate and its current attempts to meet the objections of some faith groups as appropriate and sufficient.

Prediction: The Supreme Court will rule the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and the attempts to create a barrier between patient/employer premiums and the insurance coverage are sufficient to meet the law.

Now that I have made my prediction on the record, I’d like to discuss in more detail why I think this case is so important.

I can’t understand why the thought of allowing your employer’s religious beliefs to have a direct say in which medications you are allowed to access is seriously being considered. Here are just a few reasons why this objection to these contraception medications is flawed:

  1. Personal health should not be determined by an employer’s beliefs. Your health is between you and your doctor, not you, your employer, and your doctor.

  2. Women access birth control medications for many reasons, only some of which are related to contraception.

  3. If the objections to these specific medications are allowed to stand, we will have a constant parade of new lawsuits as current medications are modified, new medications are created, and old medications find new purposes. This is simply untenable for patients, the medical community and lawmakers.

  4. What of more restrictive religious views? Should employers be allowed to deny blood  transfusions and other common interventions? Deny HIV treatment? 

  5. A decision in favor of Hobby Lobby would potentially dismantle one of the key benefits of the Affordable Care Act: portability of insurance. In some communities, there may be a scarce number of employers who would be willing to provide comprehensive health services to women, thus ‘trapping’ some women in employment because of needed health insurance.

  6. The hiring process for employees would become unacceptably onerous, with potential employees required to notify employers of private health conditions prior to an employment agreement. If the employee does not make this inquiry, they could lose valuable coverage for required medications.

I think the core of this argument is about who is harmed the most. In my opinion, it is clear the employee (patient) is the one who will be most disadvantaged if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby.

Finally, if corporations are allowed to opt out of laws they find morally objectionable, laws will no longer have objective meaning. Every law will potentially become the focus of legal challenges based on moral convictions.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we already use our collective resources to fund programs and actions that many find objectionable. It doesn’t mean we have the right to refuse to participate in the laws of our society. I object to the death penalty, but it doesn’t mean that I have the right to separate my tax dollars in a way that pleases me. Quite the opposite, in fact: I am forced to contribute to the deaths of citizens against my will.

If I can be forced to support the death penalty with my tax dollars, how is it possible that we would allow corporations to deny medical treatments to their employees due to their moral objections? In my view, it won’t be possible. Hobby Lobby will be denied.