A Question for Hobby Lobby Supporters…

You’re probably celebrating, and I’m not here to spit venom on your parade. When you have a moment, I’ve got a question for you that has dogged me throughout the coverage of this case. It doesn’t get to the legal and constitutional matters, but to the shape of your theological conviction.

Here’s my question:

If it violates your religious convictions to compensate your employees with an insurance plan that might be used for contraception or abortion, how does it NOT violate your religious convictions to compensate your employees in US dollars that might be used for contraception or abortion?

Shouldn’t you, in the name of religious freedom, insist that you be excused from using the legal tender that others use? Shouldn’t you instead use an alternative form of scrip that can only be used for things you endorse? I realize that the second scenario would be a huge hassle and may make it impossible for you to run a business, but come on, if the convictions are inviolable they’re inviolable. If there’s a difference, what is it?

The best answer I’ve seen to my question is from the Catholic theologians’ amicus brief, which likens it to the difference between giving someone legal tender to do with whatever they will, and giving someone a voucher for a designated purpose.

The brief draws an analogy to the difference between giving someone cash and giving someone a gift card for a steakhouse. If you give someone cash they might use it for steak, or they might use it for something else. If you give someone a gift card for a steakhouse, then if they use it, they will certainly use it for steak, because it’s designated to be used for steak. And if you have a moral problem with eating steak, then you shouldn’t be required by the government to pay your employees with a gift card for a steak house. Likewise employers shouldn’t be required by the government to pay their workers with a form of compensation that’s designated specifically for birth control.

But how are employee health benefits not a lot more like the cash in this analogy? Those benefits might be used for birth control, or they might be used for a colorectal cancer screening, or they might be used for a strep test. Nobody’s insisting that you use that compensation for birth control, and you don’t lose it if you don’t.

Or put another way: The Catholic theologians’ brief suggests there is a big moral difference between (to speak in concrete terms) handing someone a pile of money, versus handing someone a piece of paper that says “This is your insurance plan that I, your employer, am paying you with, and among the things it can be used for is contraception.” But why?

Why isn’t handing someone some money the same thing as handing them a piece of paper that says, “This is your insurance plan that can be used for a range of things one of which is contraception”?

How does “This bill is legal tender for all debts, public and private” NOT amount to “By law, this piece of paper can be used for a range of things, one of which is contraception”?

Yes, US dollars have a bigger list of things they can be used for than do health plans, but both include contraception. So is the salient difference the size of the list? Is there some number of things-this-paper-can-be-used-for that puts the employer at a safe moral distance from the act, where previously they had been complicit? If so, what’s the number? How long does the list of possible uses have to be to assuage the employer’s conscience enough to let the employees use their compensation for things the employer finds morally repugnant?

See, here’s the thing I’d prefer not to believe—because I actually don’t like being cynical, despite how well it often plays on the internet. I’d prefer not to believe that employers opposed to the contraceptive mandate really believe that a dollar is a dollar, right up to the point when some woman somewhere might be having and enjoying sex in ways they don’t approve of… at which point suddenly there are all these religious convictions. (Of course it doesn’t help that Hobby Lobby has been happy enough to invest in contraceptive manufacturers.)

So help me out. What’s the moral difference between one piece of paper that says “This is compensation I’m giving you, my employee; and it can, by force of law, be used for a big range of things, one of which is contraception” and a second piece of paper that says “This is compensation I’m giving you, my employee; and it can, by force of law, be used for an even bigger range of things, one of which is contraception”?   Why are those your stakes? I’d really like to understand better.

sarah.morice.brubaker@ptstulsa.edu'

Sarah Morice-Brubaker is an assistant professor of theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. In addition to writing for RD, she’s also written for The Christian Century, Dialogic Magazine, and Faith and Leadership. She has a chapter in the forthcoming edited volume from Ashgate, Placing Nature on the Borders of Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics.

  • Eric Thurman

    “If it violates your religious convictions to compensate your employees with an insurance plan that might be used for contraception or abortion, how does it NOT violate your religious convictions to compensate your employees in US dollars that might be used for contraception or abortion?”

    Heck, yeah! This is the question I want answered too!

  • cranefly

    Here’s another question: If you’re going to take a restaurant voucher away from women – and only women – because they might use it a certain way, shouldn’t all female employees get a mandatory raise for the amount in question? Because in this scenario, the employer was NOT actually given the option of providing either birth control or cash. They were given the option of covering birth control or nothing. Nothing but the same wages that everyone else has always gotten, and will continue to get, no matter what kind of health care issues they have.

    They asked to be allowed to provide men with full health care, and women with substandard health care, while paying everyone the same old wages. They got it.

  • Christopher Johnson

    Nice try. But you and I both know that the issue here is not how you spend the money I pay you but whether the government should be able legally coerce me into how I spend mine.
    Take another run at it, kid.

  • Brian

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieWVVnUTZpTGlzNHM/edit?pli=1

    ^Read that (which, incidentally, was footnoted in the ruling today). That you have to ask this question means you really have very little knowledge of the ethics of cooperation.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Um…the money you pay them is yours too. Until you give it to them.

    Just like health insurance.

    Oh, by the way, benefits are in lieu of salary.

    You really need an introductory critical thinking course. Basic business too.

  • Syttende Mai

    Dumb broads with hyphenated names working in a “seminary” upset that they can’t get others to pay to murder her babies.

    What the heck “seminary” would have EVIL like this working within its walls.

  • Syttende Mai

    So who’s brains will you be getting and will you accept them as your own or blame the donor for your idiocy.

  • Jim Reed

    Christianity needs issues it can use to feel superior to others. If they are not superior, then what would be the point of being Christian? The list is shrinking, so they hold on tight to whatever is left. If the contraception issue doesn’t make sense, it is still something they have. If the policy will have negative results, that could be thought of as God’s will. If others question the wisdom, that gives them more reason to agree with each other. If their way is not in conflict with the ways of the world, then they will would have to find something else where there can be conflict. They just want the world to have a little recognition for their superiority.

  • Kelly

    I say we use Jesus’ idea: it’s the government’s name on the bills, so actually, it’s THEIRS. You just rent them. :)

  • fiona64

    Um, insurance is part of your compensation package. It is not up to your employer to determine what health care needs you have; that is for your doctor.

    As you say, ‘take another run at it, kid.’

  • Eric Thurman

    The misogyny is strong in this one.

  • fiona64

    I’m sorry, you weren’t nearly histrionic enough. Could you throw in some extra exclamation points and make a claim about Satanism just to round this out?

  • fiona64

    Can someone parse this nonsense into English for me, please? My nutcase-to-English decoder ring is broken.

  • fiona64

    They asked to be allowed to provide men with full health care, and women
    with substandard health care, while paying everyone the same old wages.
    They got it.

    This, right here, is the issue in a nutshell.

  • Eric Thurman

    That you think one essay answers all the questions about moral complicity in this case suggests you know even less.

  • Lara Blackwood Pickrel

    Was it necessary to be so condescending? Or does your opinion only have the “oomph” it needs if you follow it by calling a grown woman (with a PhD, a family, and a hell of a lot of smarts/experience) “kid”? Take another run at it, sir.

  • Greg

    Err, did he say that one essay answers all of the questions about moral complicity in this case? All he seemed to have implied is that it answered THIS question about moral complicity.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    I see that you’ve asserted something with an air of certainty. Can you provide evidence for your assertion? Thanks in advance. Also, a minor correction: I’m actually an adult, but thank you for what I shall take as a compliment upon my youthful glow. Chalk it up to good moisturizer and genes.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    You seem to be having an angry day. Hope that gets better for you. Permit me to clarify some mistakes in your comment: I’m not dumb, but am in fact quite capable of speech, despite the fact that I also write on the internet. Though I fail to see what that has to do with anything. Aphasia is a serious condition, but not really related to the subject at hand. Perhaps you were speaking colloquially and meant that I’m unintelligent, which I confess is an intriguing claim. What evidence do you have in support of it? The typical measures of intelligence — standardized test scores, intelligence tests, etc. — would seem to suggest otherwise, but I concede that those measures are flawed. It all depends on what one means by “intelligence,” I suppose. Perhaps you could argue your point more strongly if you began by defining your terms, beginning with intelligence.

    Also, I’ve never murdered any of my babies. (Nor have I ever had an abortion, which I gather was your gist. But see, now I’m defining your terms for you! As a teacher, I should know better. Maybe you can explain what, exactly, you mean by “murder” so the rest of us can better follow your point.)

    Now, with that out of the way: If you explained how any of that was an answer to my post, I’m afraid I missed it. Can you please clarify?

    On another note: Thank you for your interest knowing more about Phillips Theological Seminary! It’s a wonderful place. Permit me to quote from its website: “Phillips Theological Seminary is a graduate seminary, affiliated with
    the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), dedicated to learning the
    way of Jesus in order to cultivate vital communities, vital
    conversations, and the public good. We are a community of teachers and
    learners seeking to be faithful to God through disciplined, reasoned,
    and reflective study of scripture, religious tradition, and human
    experience.” Our students come from all over the world, and we offer online, concentrated, weekend, and weekly classes. I am daily inspired by my students, who make more sacrifices for their educations than I have ever had to do. They go on to be incredibly compassionate, judicious, skillful pastors. I learn as much from them as I ever teach them, and probably more. My colleagues are incredibly smart, kind, supportive and collegial. Heck, we put on musical revues whenever anyone retires! Words can’t do it justice. I’m thankful to be there.

    Hope that helps.

  • Jim Reed

    The government can spend our money on war. I think the question here is should they spend money on projects for the common good, or should they just step aside and let money rule. It is a political question. Some who are rich would like to have the government not spend any money so that there will be more for them.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    Thanks Lara! Yes, I agree the condescension was unnecessary for the conversation. It may have felt necessary to the commenter, though. I don’t know that individual, so I could be wrong. But I think a lot of people think a good conversation is one you have to suit up for, and try to lay waste to your opponent with any weapon at your disposal. And the internet enables this. I was trying to invite a different sort of conversation here, but I did so knowing that a lot of people would come wanting to land blows.

    I think living that way takes its toll, though. When I imagine what it must feel like to read a post on the internet, and to then conclude, “Hey, I know what I’ll do! Since I disagree with this author’s position, I shall insult him or her based on things unrelated to the position!” I can’t imagine it feels good. Gratifying, maybe, but not good-good. The times I’ve tried to do that — and I have — it’s felt satisfying in the moment, but ultimately awful, and it was never coming from the more compassionate parts of me.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    Interesting. Do you see this as being uniquely true of Christianity, or is it more of a basic human failing? I agree that a lot of people believe they need to be superior to others in order to feel that life is bearable — perhaps all of us have done that at one time or another; I certainly have — but I don’t follow how that’s intrinsic in Christian theology? (And maybe that’s not what you meant. Perhaps you were speaking of a cultural phenomenon that you see in Christians only incidentally, not essentially.)

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    Thanks for the reference, and I shall read it. I have read elsewhere about the ethics of cooperation, but no, I’ve not read this particular piece. I’ve only just begun but it looks like it will be helpful. And it’s free to boot!

    A couple of things about the rest of your comment:

    1) I respectfully disagree that my asking this question means that I must have *very* little knowledge of the ethics of cooperation. The “very” seems excessive, given the setting. (Now, if we were at a meeting for the Society of Christian Ethics, and it was a panel discussion on the finer points of Catholic moral theology’s discussions of cooperation with evil, and I were wasting the audience’s time with a long bloviating comment rather than by asking a question as I’ve done here, the “very” might be apt. But, see, I wouldn’t do that, because it’s obnoxious and disrespectful.) But yes, to be sure, it’s not my specialty, I don’t know the most important literature, and I’m sure there are people who understand the specifics better than I do. Such as the theologians who worked on the amicus brief I linked to — and the reason I know that is because I know a number of them, and some are friends. I don’t find that troubling, though, at least not in light of how I framed the post. It would be troubling if I’d represented myself with unearned authority — if my confidence in my claims had exceeded the likelihood that they were compelling and informed — but I don’t think, in this case, that I did. I certainly didn’t intend to.

    2) What I do know — which isn’t everything, granted — are the basic distinctions between direct and indirect, and proximate and remote cooperation. My question is: Why, when distinguishing between proximate and remote cooperation ultimately involves a judgment on how far removed you are from the act, are insurance benefits a vehicle for proximate cooperation, but legal tender is sufficiently remote? Is it just that legal tender is further removed from the act, by virtue of there being more things it can count as payment for? If so, then great, and thank you for answering my question. In that case, I’d be curious to know if that distinction ever feels arbitrary to those that hold it. I think it would to me, but I’d like to know how others experience it. Because…

    3) …I’m really interested in people’s experience of their own convictions — including people who aren’t formally trained in Catholic moral theology. I’d like to hear where the faultlines are for them, as they understand those faultlines. They may not explain them using the taxonomy that those who are formally trained would use, but I’d still like to hear them.

    4) The fact that this isn’t my specialty, and that I don’t have it all 100% clear in my mind, is a big part of why I asked the question in the first place — and I did have an agenda in doing so, but maybe not the one you’d expect. Part of why I took a year-long break from blogging is because I got tired of conversations that you have to suit up for and bring weapons to. I didn’t like taking the blows, of course, but more than that, I didn’t like who I became when I’d take satisfaction in having landed a blow. And I know that some thoughtful, compassionate people — maybe precisely because they’re thoughtful and compassionate — stay out of the fray because they don’t like suiting up and landing blows. Moreover, they don’t want to enter a conversation where, if you don’t know every last thing about a topic, someone is going to ridicule you. Or, if not ridicule, say that you don’t belong in the conversation. And that’s precisely because they’re aware of the limits of their own knowledge; they know they still have more to learn. But aren’t those the voices we especially need in theology?

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    Oh, thanks, Eric, but I doubt Brian knows less than I, if he can pull that article out of his sleeve! :-) No, truly, I asked the question because I didn’t understand as much as I’d like to, and the reference looks like it will be helpful. Now, granted, the final sentence of his comment was probably unnecessarily hostile… but, you know, I can remember responding in similar ways to people who showed up in an advanced feminist conversation and were like, “Has it ever occurred to you that men are expected to open doors for women sometimes?!111 I AM SO SMRT!!” I really tried not to be the Catholic moral theology equivalent of That Guy here, but perhaps I could have done better. Something to keep in mind for next time, I suppose.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    Really helpful and nuanced questions, cranefly! Thank you. (And thank you for being civil!) :-) A friend of mine asked a similar question on Facebook, to the effect of, “Doesn’t that run both ways, though? The government could have required a payment to women of childbearing age.” (Which would be really complicated and probably would have sparked protest as well, but that’s beside the point of it running both ways.)

    I actually think the workaround for religious employers — where they don’t offer contraception coverage to employees, but insurance companies do — is a pretty smart one, and at this point it doesn’t bother me a whole lot, though I may read analysis tomorrow that explains why it’s a bad workaround. So in light of that, and with your questions in mind, maybe I should nuance my question: For people who really believe that these distinctions matter for their ability to live their religious convictions with integrity, why aren’t they bothered by the slightly-less-direct forms of giving employees a benefit that can be used for something they don’t believe in? Or, better yet — because this is what I really mean, I expect — What is it like to find those nuances so important? What is it like to have a life/worldview/set of practices makes the contraceptive mandate very ethically troubling, while a cash payment or the workaround described above becomes much less troubling?

    Thank you for helping to clarify what I’m really interested in knowing. I realize that may not be what everyone is interested in knowing, and it certainly doesn’t exhaust the important issues in the SCOTUS ruling.

  • Brian Holle

    Take the analogy the other direction. Let’s hypothesize that the law allows mothers to kill their infants within one year after birth. The law declares you must pay your employees with both dollar bills and with a voucher that pays for the cost to kill an infant.

  • Jim Reed

    I guess we should have a law making analogy illegal.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Lol. You’re cute.

    When you find a counter-argument to the arguments I’ve made, I’ll be happy to speak with you. Not interested, otherwise.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    Well, speaking personally, in such a scenario I’d be so horrified I’d probably look for ways to become as noncomplicit with the whole system as I possibly could. I wouldn’t approach the dilemma thinking, “Hmmm, how can I go on trying to run a profitable business in this culture and maintain my professional goals and standard of living, while meanwhile securing a small concession from the government that lets me not give the infant-killing voucher to my employees directly but lets someone else do it for them?” I’d be thinking, “How far can I reasonably go in not participating in any of this horror? Well, nuts, I think I may need to live in a very nonstandard way that will probably make me insignificant, disliked, weird, and poor. And possibly a criminal.”

    Truly not snarking here. That’s how I would answer your question.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Flagged.

  • Brian Holle

    Why? I don’t understand your conclusion. If it were legal for mothers to kill their born less than one year old would you provide that voucher to your employees as a matter of routine? Or would you resist that concept out of belief that mother’s killing their (born) children is wrong?

  • Jim Reed

    Thanks for bringing up a good point. It is not just Christianity. It is human tendency in general. That being said, I think Christianity by its nature and history does have a harder time than average with this problem.

    Christianity is based on a system of unquestionable beliefs. I am not quite sure why, but my gut feel is this is going to lead to increased vanity. Add to that the current dual nature of the religion in this country. Starting in the 70′s and 80′s Christianity was steered to the right. This led to what I feel is kind of a split between conservative and progressive Christianity. The conservative side developed a taste for who can be the most conservative. On the other side, the progressives kind of became responsible for putting some kind of controls on the crazy conservative beliefs, only a lot of years went by, and they are right now just barely starting to wake up to the fact of that responsibility.

    The progressive Christians know they should somehow try to put an end to the crazy conservative doctrines, but by eliminating them they might ultimately end up eliminating the religion entirely. That is the question we have to work on. If you eliminate the crazy conservative doctrines from Christianity, is there anything left? You could answer Jesus, but what does that mean? Love and understanding of others? Couldn’t that be done better, and is currently being done by others, without the belief in Jesus part? And what does that Jesus part mean? Your love is stronger if you believe you have Jesus in your heart? But if people start thinking that way we will eventually be right back to where we are now.

  • Jim Reed

    I guess you want an intelligent answer to a non-intelligent question. I don’t have that. We don’t have any law like that, and we never will, with the possible exception of stand your ground.

  • Brian Holle

    No snarking inferred. Don’t you think your answer sympathizes with the owners of Hobby Lobby? You seem to distinguish your hypothetical self from them by saying they are only “agitating” for a “small concession”. Well, that small concession doesn’t seem so small in your article or in the Dissenting Opinion. I would say the owners of Hobby Lobby are meeting with huge efforts to make them insignificant, disliked, and weird (although apparently not poor). The horror you see in mothers hypothetically killing infants is the same horror they see in reality. To choose to not participate wholly in society or to not participate in the portions of society in which one specifically finds that horror are just a matter of degree of the same choice.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    Thanks so much, Brian, for the charitable and challenging conversation, and we’re actually having a mind-meld moment! I’m making some of the same points right this second in a reply to Jim Reed, below! Oh, the intricacies of online conversation. :-) Shall we pick it up downthread?

  • Brian Holle

    I might actually be non-intelligent. And your second sentence is correct. ;)

  • Brian Holle

    Wish I could. Lunch hour is over. But I’ll check back.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Are you of the view that anyone, in Hobby Lobby’s position, should be exempted from any regulations, regarding employment, benefits, etc., if they can point to a private conviction that it violates?

  • Jim Reed

    I got tired of conversations that you have to suit up for and bring weapons to

    I thought your reason for the break was you just needed some time off after the Preacher’s Daughter series.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    If I understand correctly, though, Brian’s point is that for those opposed to contraception on religious grounds, the Affordable Care Act is like that. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Brian!)

    This conversation is very helpful, because it’s revealing to me the shape of my confusion. And I’m realizing that part of it is that, if contraception is a horror of the same magnitude as infanticide (and I don’t see it that way, but I believe some do); and if someone’s goal is to back off from participation in that horror as much as possible… well, I guess I don’t understand why they’d use the government courts in the first place, or why they’d be satisfied with the workaround granted to religious employers. If I thought the dominant culture was a hellish nightmare, and if I also held out hope that I could withdraw my complicity to a meaningful degree… well, think I would just want to remove myself as far as possible from the corruption, rather than participate in it as much as I could without getting my hands too dirty. I’d want to, I don’t know, living in a commune that didn’t handle US money and only bartered and took in zero-to-twelve-month-olds and engaged in tax resistance.

    So in that sense I do sympathize with those who find themselves in a moral dilemma… I just don’t quite understand the response I’ve seen. Put differently, while I would probably have a much harder time being friends with a hardcore antiabortion activist than with my actual friends who saw yesterday’s ruling as a victory for religious freedom, nevertheless there’s something in their response that makes more sense to me than those who hail the SCOTUS ruling as a victory for religious freedom.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    Hahahahaha! That made me literally snort. :-) Thank you, Jim! No, Preacher’s Daughters was a lot of fun, but by that point I was running on fumes.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    Oh my word, if we did that I would never be able to say anything again! On the plus side, the SAT would be shorter.

  • Jim Reed

    Whatever the arguments on this issue, I think the anti-abortion side way overplayed their hand by saying a fertilized egg is a person, and preventing it from implanting is murder. Until that is sorted out, the thoughts of the anti-abortion people should be regarded as of no value. That is the way I see it. Of course they see it as the opposite, they think only the thinking of evangelical Christians should be considered because they are on God’s side. I don’t think there can be any compromise or understanding until they drop the fertilized egg idea, and if they do, then start of life is a question, and they can’t define beginning of life in any other way without having their religion fall apart.

  • Brian Holle

    Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. When does human life begin and, when do human rights initially adhere to a human life? When the life begins, or is there a period after which life begins in which human rights are not yet present?

  • Jim Reed

    Human life is the same as other life on earth. It is composed of molecules, and some electricity. Higher life forms are composed of multiple cells, and they divide and grow, and split into multiple cells, and form new individuals. Life began long ago, before anything we could define as human life. You can’t really look at an exact point of beginning of human life unless you want to see it from a religious perspective, and you believe there is a point where God implants a soul into a new human. But once you do that, you have opened up a world of contradictions, and they can’t be resolved because all they can ever do is grow into more and more contradictions.

  • Sarah Morice Brubaker

    [nods] Yes to all those, but, respectfully, I’d also want to add these questions into the mix:

    Why do people seek contraception and abortion? If one goes and asks and gathers data on it, what does one learn? What’s it like to be harmed by pregnancy and childbirth? What sorts of harm are possible? Are there cases where contraception and abortion is the best thing to do under the circumstances? Are there instances where it isn’t? Are there times when the most ethical thing to do is not get in the way of someone else committing an act I disagree with? Are there times when one MUST get in the way? How does one tell the difference? What would the effects be — costs and benefits — if nobody could do the things I find morally repugnant? What is the appropriate role of government in making sure that one vision of the good is heeded by those who aren’t persuaded by it?

    And always, always, as an addendum to ALL of these questions: How do I know that I’m right? What would make me change my mind? What am I doing to keep myself honest and accountable? How am I making sure that, if I’ve deluded myself to the point that I’m labeling my own unexamined rancid prejudice as “ethical principles,” that someone WILL BE ABLE TELL ME SO? How am I staying in conversation with people who see things differently? How do I let people know that I won’t abuse them for telling me I’ve overlooked something?

    /soapbox

    Well, anyway, that’s a long way of saying how much I appreciate thoughtful conversation with thoughtful people who disagree with me, but don’t take delight in insulting me. So thank you for being one.

  • Brian Holle

    So, if “you can’t look at an exact point of beginning of life”, can you say that an individual human life could begin before two (multiple) cells combine and start to grow? Or, since human life is composed of multiple cells, dividing and growing, forming new individuals, haven’t you described what the zygote does at inception?

  • Jim Reed

    Probably nobody remembers this, but the original reason for providing abortions at clinics was because before that abortions were done in unsanitary conditions, sometimes south of the border, and possibly with very unsafe sharp instruments from the closet. Everyone knew and appreciated this for a short time, then they forgot, and evangelicals like Falwell started to see the potential in this issue.

  • fiona64

    Is this supposed to be an attempt at intelligent conversation? Because it seems 100 percent irrelevant to the topic at hand.

  • fiona64

    Are you maintaining that infanticide is the same as abortion (which is not what Hobby Lobby objected to anyway)?

    How absurd.

  • fiona64

    When does human life begin and, when do human rights initially adhere to a human life?

    Human life is a continuum. Perhaps you are asking about when rights accrue? Easy: at birth. You can check the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution if you’re not sure why I say that.

  • Brian Holle

    So legalizing abortion prevented Dr. Gosnell in Philadelphia (and others) from performing abortions in unsanitary conditions with sharp instruments from the closet?

  • fiona64

    It was the anti-choice who made a situation like you describe (i.e., Gosnell) possible, with TRAP laws shutting down reputable providers. It was the pro-choice who were reporting on him and wanting something done (RHRealityCheck had been reporting on him as early as 2010). Gosnell belongs squarely in the anti-choice column. Sorry to disappoint you (not really).

  • Brian Holle

    Oh. So laws attempting to regulate the safety of abortions drove the likes of Gosnell outside of the laws. Thus the existence of a law bears the guilt of the unlawful activity, not the actor. It’s the law’s fault.

  • Jim Reed

    It is a process of many steps. The egg is fertilized, and grows and splits, and implants, and splits some more, and cells start to differentiate, and eventually blood starts to circulate, and a brain starts forming, and the baby is born, and breaths, all the same as in many other species. The baby matures, and mates, and more eggs are fertilized and implant. It has been cycling on for ages. The problems start when some of these animals are taught religion, and they want to go to heaven, so they need to think in addition to their body they also have an immortal soul to be the part that lives in heaven, so they need a beginning of life when God implants this soul in a new life, so we have these question about things like is two cells enough for this to be the beginning of life?

  • Brian Holle

    I don’t think you are following the line of reasoning…But I could be absurd. :-)

  • fiona64

    You are being deliberately obtuse … but you know that.

    TRAP laws are not now, nor have they ever been, about “safety.’ They are about denying access to services. And you know that, too. So, yes. When legal clinics close and women cannot access services any other way, they go to illegal providers.

    Please tell me you’re not one of those simpletons who think that if abortion is made illegal again (which was only for about 70 years in our country’s history, BTW), it will cease to occur?

  • fiona64

    That’s because there is no line of reasoning; just some bullshit hyperbole.

  • Brian Holle

    Why contraception and abortion? Prevention of children; of pregnancy (two different things). Harm from children comes from their incessant needs and costs, usually at odds with our own perceived needs, as well as pregnancy health risks to the mother. Contraception may be a correct thing to do (although as a theologian you are aware that there is Scriptural warrant for the view that God commands us to be fruitful and multiply) but abortion is a certain type of contraception. Overall, regarding the unreliability of own opinion regarding our ethical points of view, humanity is stuck. You and I know relatively few if any are persuaded out of their positions by reasoning, logic, rhetoric, etc. Human nature is self oriented. We see it in others, feel it in ourselves, and hear it or read it in the Bible. We lie to ourselves more than anyone. So is your ethical position The Truth or just a Lie You Are Telling Yourself? Luther told Melanthon (sp), who confessed being on the horns of an ethical dilemma, “do what you think is right and if you are wrong, sin boldly!”

  • Brian Holle

    It’s there, you can’t find it. Don’t get frustrated.

  • Brian Holle

    I am a simpleton, but not one of those simpletons!

  • Brian Holle

    So if life is a continuum, when is it ok to destroy part of it? Is it ok for you to stop my heart? But not outside the womb? Would destroying me be equivalent to cutting off my little toe and destroying it, ethically speaking?

  • Jim Reed

    The first step in the process is to understand it is a question that the government must answer. It is not against the law unless they say it is.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    The question is irrelevant. Rights and prerogatives–as well as responsibilities–attach to us insofar as we are persons, not insofar as we are human, and they are on a sliding scale. (I.e. a fully developed adult has more rights and prerogatives–as well as more responsibilities–than a six year old child.)

    Anyway, this has very little to do with the article, which addresses Hobby Lobby’s alleged “right” to impose its religious views on its employees, via their health benefits.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    It’s a pretty thin line of reasoning.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    I teach logic for a living, at the university level. Not much there, there, bud.

  • Andrew Wood

    The answer is simple: The employee has the freedom to spend their money however they choose, instead of being forced to spend it a certain way. Likewise, the employer has the freedom to spend their money however they choose, instead of being forced to spend it a certain way.

  • Brian Holle

    Well, if that’s what it’s about, logically, Hobby Lobby doesn’t have any religious views. Its a business. But its owners do. Logically, the owners do not want pay for abortions for their employees; they find that it violates their morals about personal life. So does not wanting to pay for abortions equate, if logic holds, to imposing the owners’ religious views on its employees? No. Logic shows that pro-abortion people are imposing their religious beliefs on Hobby Lobby’s owners.

  • Brian Holle

    Well, that goes to the nature of the Law and Government. Your statement actually reflects a view of the Law similar to Fascism or Communism. I hold to a different view of the Law.

  • Brian Holle

    I’ll take your word for it. That settles everything.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Benefits are in lieu of salary. Hobby Lobby, as an entity licensed to engage in business with the public, has no more right to control what its employees do with the salary that they pay them, then with the healthcare they provide. That’s part of the point made in the article.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Of course, it doesn’t. But the idea that you have some obviously strong argument is…not obvious.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Care to answer this one? Or shall we stick with the crickets chirping?

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    For the umpteenth time, benefits are in lieu of salary. There is no relevant difference between giving a person money and having them spend it on contraception and giving them a health care plan, which they use to obtain contraception.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    He’s clearly trolling and trying to turn this into an argument about abortion.

    Look, this very narrow decision is unlikely to get replicated in the future. Alito already said, in response to Ginsberg, that if a company owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to prohibit employees from obtaining blood transfusions, he will not permit it.

    Not sure why they went for the ad hoc decision, in this case. It certainly makes no sense, given even the most basic understanding of the relationship between salary and benefits, as part of a complete compensation package.

    Anyway, with respect to your question, Holle is just an anti-choice zealot who wants to argue about abortion any chance he gets.

  • Brian Holle

    Are you of the view that any and all government regulations, regarding benefits or anything else, once enacted are, simply because they are regulations, just, fair, and to be obeyed without question? Chirp.

  • Brian Holle

    Obviously…never said it was.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Well, you’ve now confirmed that you are trolling.

    My question was apropos to your position and certainly deserving of a real answer. The view you are advocating would entail a number of “rights” for companies to do things that everyone–including you–would abhor and this constitutes a reductio ad absurdum of your view.

  • fiona64

    No, really. There is nothing there but hyperbole. It really is not my fault that you are trying to make a faulty connection between two completely unrelated things, sweetie.

    I think the only one frustrated here is you, since you want to be able to wave your big, dumb, anti-choice male paw and opine on matters that will never affect you one whit. (Or are you now going to try to tell me that you can get pregnant?)

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    “It’s there, you can’t find it. Don’t get frustrated.”
    —-
    This certainly suggests that you think its obvious. But, whatever. This grows tedious.

  • fiona64

    Well, that is encouraging. @@ <– Those are my eyes rolling.

  • fiona64
  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Just repeating what Alito himself said, when asked about extensions to people like Jehovah’s witnesses and blood transfusions and the like.

  • Brian Holle

    I agree, the owners have no right to control how the employees spend their salary. Why should anyone have the right to control how the owner’s of a business spend their money?

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Which part of “benefits are in lieu of salary” are you not understanding?

  • fiona64

    You’re right … it’s narrowly construed to mean “only things that women use.” Heh.

  • Jim Reed

    So instead of the government making the laws, you make up laws for yourself, because the government way is fascism or communism, and your way is Christian?

  • Sylv Taylor

    The pill doesn’t murder babies.

  • cranefly

    Employers do not have the freedom to avoid using their money to pay wages. Not if they want to be employers.

  • LegalizeLezMarriage

    and also “..and only the religions that don’t seem cray-cray to me. I mean, aliens and body-thetans? Jesus being brothers with Satan? CU-koo! CU-koo!”

  • cranefly

    You know, the current law DOES require that a portion of all wages go to the killing of children overseas. No one’s religious freedom stopped the government from razing multiple foreign cities to the ground, or from numerous preemptive invasions (which are against many religions, including mine). To differentiate your analogy, I feel I need to ask you: Is there a substantial ontological difference between American children and non-American children? And, is there a substantial moral difference between paying mothers to kill children, and paying soldiers to kill children?

    To be clear, the deaths of these children at war (via weapons that are designed to kill) is typically far less accidental than the death of a child via IUD, which is designed to prevent ovulation.

    I am of the opinion that killing children is wrong in all cases. I’m not sure what this has to do with the matter at hand, except to highlight the moral confusion and hypocrisy of people who are comfortable paying taxes for unjust acts of war, but uncomfortable permitting women the option of complete affordable health care.

  • GeniusSmartGuy

    This is a great way of looking at it. But what if we look at the steak restaurant voucher analogy from a slightly different angle… What if you are a business owner who is staunchly vegetarian – and believed that the killing of animals was absolutely morally wrong – and specialized in producing products that were vegan friendly. You are a member of PETA and you do everything in your control to not harm animals. Then let’s say that the government passes a law requiring all businesses to provide to their employees a lunch cafeteria plan – with meals provided every day as part of compensation (outsourced to a 3rd party service company of course). You’re fine with that, and happily begin searching for a food service company that suits your company culture, and to your delight, find a company called “Vegan Lunch Solutions”. Then you find out that the government has included a law that requires “Baby Lamb Carcasses” to be included in all lunch plans. So my question is this: Does this business owner have a reason to be morally concerned about the content of benefits they are providing? Or should they just shut the ef up and provide baby lamb carcasses for lunch, none of their concern?

  • Jim Reed

    There is a way to resolve this kind of issue. The court system. If the argument has merit, it might eventually go to the supreme court. If everyone thinks this is just dumb, it might not make it very far.

  • Jim Reed

    This split in American Christianity tends to reinforce itself and grow. If you think about it, you are a more thoughtful person, and you will tend to migrate to that side. Those who follow without question will find they are rewarded by the conservative side, and if you can be nonquestioning enough, you rise to a position of respect, and sometimes power. That can be tempting for a non-thinker. Over time, the conservatives as a group will convince themselves more and more they are on the right path. The progressive side will more and more question what it really all means, and in what way is it worth the trouble? This might eventually lead to an unstable situation, and I don’t think we can be sure what will happen then.

  • Wonder

    one wonders if the female employees might have a legitimate argument that this would constitute wage discrimination
    anyone who knows more about the law wanna chime in?

  • Wonder

    There is a major flaw in your analogy. Health benefits are not meals eaten in the workplace.

  • cranefly

    Don’t forget that this “vegan” group also has holdings in baby lamb slaughterhouses, the “lamb” in the government plan is not actually meat but the employer insists that his belief that it is is all that matters, and the only employees trying to eat it are those trying to access prescription diets for complicated and personal health reasons.

    This whole analogy is total contorted nonsense. Either elected representatives have a right to make laws, or they don’t. If your “beliefs” can opt you out of any law, then there is no such thing as law.

  • GeniusSmartGuy

    It’s contorted nonsense to you because you mistakenly assumed I was trying to make a one to one comparison with Hobby Lobby. I was actually responding to the author’s mention of the steak voucher analogy made by the catholic theologians. It’s an interesting exploration because she is attempting to find the root of the moral dilemma. The point illustrates that there is an obvious moral dilemma when one is compelled to participate (even passively) in an activity that one finds morally objectionable. Laws are generally restrictive in nature. It’s one thing to pass laws that prohibit activity, or offer protections against certain activities. But when a law is passed that compels specific action or participation in a clearly defined activity, you better be sure that the clearly defined activity does not potentially violate peoples moral fiber. I don’t think anyone is arguing that ‘beliefs’ should opt people out of any law. We do need to make the distinction between prohibitive laws and compulsory ones. But to more clearly address the author’s original question about the difference between cash and a voucher – cash has no clear definition of purpose. It is only an abstract valuation. Whereas a health care plan with clearly defined requirements is a tangible asset with a clear purpose. They weren’t protesting the ‘piece of paper’ that provides general access to health care, but rather very specific, clearly defined items on the required list of compensation. The list of items is quite narrow, and is not at all similar to general purpose cash. This clear and narrow definition and purpose, along with the compulsory requirement to passively provide it – is what I think brings about the moral issue. By the way, I’m not actually a Hobby Lobby supporter, but I do see the merit in the argument.

  • GeniusSmartGuy

    Agreed. I suppose altering the analogy to include a food truck in the street or a steak house down the block would present a more diluted form of participation. But I can still see a potential moral dilemma even in those cases, mostly due to the compulsory participation aspect of it all.

  • cranefly

    Interesting. It seems clear to me, though, that for as long as the country has taxed its people and spent the money on war (and torture, pollution, imperialism, and all kinds of coercive immoral things) it has imposed on its citizens’ consciences, religious and otherwise. I would like to know what the difference is, in their minds, between complying with direct taxes that go towards evil and complying with business standards that may or may not.

    For what it’s worth, I can see the case for anarchism. I don’t mean to argue with any confidence that the government does have the right to make laws, only to make sure we’re clear that if we decide that it can’t impose on anyone’s conscience, that will probably take out most of what it does. In some cases, two consciences will be mutually exclusive, and this Hobby Lobby precedent gives us a hint at who will win then: the rich, privileged, and dishonest.

  • Jim Reed

    All those things you mentioned, war, torture, pollution, imperialism are conservative. They only have a problem with progressive things, like health care.

  • GeniusSmartGuy

    Here’s the difference. Currency is an abstract representation of value that has not been converted into anything concrete. A health plan with pre-defined items x,y, and z is a much more tangible asset (in other words, it has already manifested into something substantially concrete, and its value is inherent in the substance of the object itself). This is just one of many problems with the barter system. When you trade with a concrete item, you are required to have direct association with that particular item (and all of the baggage that may come with it). Currency does not require direct association with a concrete item, until the conversion process occurs. This is why I think it’s extremely problematic for the government to require any economic transaction to be conducted with anything other than legal tender – (including compensation).

  • Brian Holle

    No one said a hypothetical “law of the United States of America”. I agree with many of your objections if that was the premise. Let me expand the hypothesis: it is a hypothetical law in a country like Switzerland, only more progressive and politically correct. Not the USA, heaven forbid.

  • Brian Holle

    Sorry to have frustrated you with questions about your beliefs. It seems no one should be allowed to have a different opinion than you and as such, that seems to anger you.

  • Brian Holle

    Alito is lying. Attempting to mollify leftist activists.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Well, there’s a generic deflection, intended to shift perception, without actually saying anything.

    When you turn a discussion about whether a company should be able to impose its views on its employees via their benefits package, into a discussion about “mothers killing their infants,” you are demonstrably trolling. And if not, it means that you are so poor at constructing relevant analogies that it would be better if you *were* trolling.

  • cranefly

    What if it was China. Would you support a company with a business plan of selling goods produced by unethical labor in a country with a One Child Policy where infanticide was common and abortions were sometimes mandatory?

  • cranefly

    Conservatives like to pretend that religion is necessary for a conscience, and that progressives have neither.

  • colkoch

    Exactly. I wish conservatives could get more honest and say “I need religion to form my conscience and you progressives should be thankful that my religion exists to compel my good behavior, otherwise I might truly become and anarchist.”

  • colkoch

    Apparently Hobby Lobby has no problem with this issue. Maybe there is no such thing as remote cooperation with evil when one is making a profit. It only becomes a problem when it’s on the expense side of the ledger.

  • colkoch

    Alito really means it’s only Catholic issues which count.

  • colkoch

    I wish Hobby Lobby or some of their lawyers would have asked themselves about the consequences of the precedent they were setting if they won their case. Rather than think beyond themselves they chose to think only of themselves and because they chose as they did, they missed perhaps bigger moral consequences of their action….corporations now have religious rights and the Supreme Court will now be deciding which religious doctrines will have dominance over others.

  • Rmj

    Actually, the question is: what’s the difference between the paycheck an employee receives, and an insurance policy?

    Both are compensation provided by the employer. Why is one still the property of the employer (the insurance policy) while the other (the paycheck) is not? No employer can insist their employees not spend that paycheck on alcohol, although many an employer may consider alcohol an offense to their religious sensibilities.

    Why does insurance still belong to the employer, even though it is “purchased” by the employees labor, just as the paycheck is? It is actually a policy purchased by the employer on behalf of the employee, purchased, as I say, by the employee’s labor. It is no different from the paycheck, yet we insist on remains the property of the employer, while the other doesn’t.

    And that distinction is groundless, as far as I can see. Especially since all the employer is providing is an insurance policy which is required to meet certain minimum requirements (like contraception coverage), and that coverage may or may not ever be used by the employee.

    Just as the employee may or may not engage in practices offensive to the religious sensibilities of the employer. And yet who would say the employer has grounds to refuse employment on the basis that the employee MAY engage in such behavior at some time in the future?

    The more I examine this argument for the employer, the less sense it makes.

  • cranefly

    That sounds about right. I bet it’s a huge relief on their consciences that now the only money they’re spending on abortion is the kind that brings in returns.

  • cranefly

    Human life begins at conception. Legally, however, human rights go as far the next human’s nose. No one, no matter how young or old, has an inalienable right to use the body of another human without consent. I don’t have a right to take your kidneys against your will, whether or not I am human, whether or not you are my mother.

    The abortion debate is not about when life begins. It is about body integrity. It is about whether you can be forced by the state to rent your body to another person against your will, at your own medical risk. And pregnancy is, make no mistake, always a medical risk. It kills up to 1/10 women in some countries, it kills plenty of women even in America, it permanently changes every woman’s body, and it can and does occur via non-consensual sex. If you are anti-choice, you favor the position that women’s bodies are never, at any time, their own, because any woman may at any time be impregnated by force and obligated to donate her body to the child of whoever took ownership of her. If you are anti-choice you are telling your daughters that their human lives began at conception, and will end at puberty, because once they hit puberty they are public property.

  • cranefly

    I vaguely remember Obama promising that his health care plan would not allow discrimination by sex, in reference to contraception coverage. I guess he tried.

  • Wonder

    But the owners of Hobby Lobby still want to en a profitable business, one in which in the pursuit of those profits they purchase large quantities of merchandise from a country that virtually mandates abortion to control its working class

  • Wonder

    And Thoreau’s response was to refuse to pay the tax, and accept the legal penalty for that refusal.
    HL and their ilk want to have their cake and eat it.

  • Collin237

    Then all vegan businesses would be morally obliged to shut down. From that day on, vegan food would be bought with something other than money. Perhaps BitCoin. Or perhaps tithes to a vegan priest.

    If they indirectly paid for the lamb lunches, what would happen to them? Would the Cow Over The Moon send them to eternal damnation? In that case, they have nothing to lose by quitting their job.

  • cranefly

    Exactly. If enough people took Thoreau’s route, they would make a difference, and they would make it with courage and moral high ground. But that’s not what we’re seeing. We’re seeing rich hypocrites demanding special treatment at others’ expense.

  • phatkhat

    That’s pretty specious. Aside from benefits being part of the total compensation package, NO ONE is forcing one of the Greens, or their wives/daughters, to have an abortion if it violates their morals. They are individuals, free to pursue whatever course their conscience dictates.

    But, like the old adage about your right to swing your fist ending at my nose, their right to swing their religion club ends at the employees’ persons. Working at Hobby Lobby is a JOB, not a religious vocation. Unless this ruling is taken to allow religious discrimination in hiring, which it may turn out to, then HL has all kinds of people working there, and their rights are as good as the Greens’ rights under the law.

  • phatkhat

    This seems to be either willful ignorance or the latest meme from Fox, because I keep seeing people saying that insurance is basically an unearned gift from the employer. Not so, of course, but it fits well in their worldview.

  • phatkhat

    But you cannot equate contraception and infanticide. (You really can’t even equate abortion and infanticide, but that isn’t the subject, here.) NONE of the pills/devices that HL oppose are abortifacients, even if they wrongly cling to the belief they are, in the face of scientific facts.

    Hobby Lobby also loses points in view of the fact that they have money invested in companies that produce, not only these pills/devices, but actual abortifacients. Which leads me to believe this is not about a real issue of conscience, but one of either or both of a) money, b) control.

  • phatkhat

    And education.