Hobby Lobby Wins; So What?

No, the sky didn’t fall with today’s SCOTUS decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The Court majority siding with the Green family took care to claim that the decision’s impact will be very limited. They framed it as a narrow decision. Many are likely to shrug and say, “So what?”

The sky didn’t fall today. But the air is now ionized differently, and folks with a good nose for weather know that storms are surely coming.

In this ruling, the fundamental distinction and separation between a commercial enterprise and a specifically religious or “ecclesiastical” corporation has been fatally breached. We can expect other large commercial enterprises to start donning ecclesiastical robes when it suits them to do so. Their owners will declare that their hearts are “strangely warmed” (John Wesley) when, in fact, it will be their pecuniary interests (or their pure prejudices) that drive their determination to resist regulation.

No one should be fooled by the fact that the Court majority limits the scope of its decision to closely held corporations.

More than 90% of U.S. business corporations are closely held; most but not all of these are family-owned businesses.

Forbes says that in 2013, purely private companies alone employed 4.5 million people. The top private employers include household names like Dell, Cargill, Mars, Heinz, Dole, Kohler, Hilton, Bloomberg, etc.

Nor should anyone think that the religious or “conscientious” objections floating up from these corporations will stop with Green family-style objections to providing certain forms of contraception. There are many other laws and regulations that closely held corporations may now decide are religiously objectionable.

The owners of Koch Industries are known to have a religious commitment to burning fossil fuels. How long do you think it will take them to bring an objection to EPA regulation of emissions?

Likewise, closely held corporations have long been among the fiercest enemies of unions and collective bargaining. I predict they will find plenty of “religious” arguments for refusing to comply with the National Labor Relations Act or with certain rulings of the National Labor Relations Board.

The five justices who prevailed in this case know perfectly well that other corporate challenges to accepted “common good” regulations and requirements are on their way, albeit not in the immediate future. Hobby Lobby is but the thin edge of the wedge.

peterlaarman@gmail.com'

Peter Laarman is a United Church of Christ minister and activist who recently retired as executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting in Los Angeles. He remains involved in numerous justice struggles, in particular a campaign known as Justice Not Jails that calls upon faith communities to critique and combat the system of racialized mass incarceration often referred to as The New Jim Crow.

  • DKeane123

    I wonder how long it will be for a business owned by a JW to stop providing for blood transfusions, or how about Scientology and psychiatric services?

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    An ugly ruling and a bad day. Make no mistake, this is not a “so what” affair, but a very bad precedent. Remember the proposed “We will not serve homosexuals” legislation. We may see it come back, after this ruling.

  • Craptacular

    History will not be kind to this court. But, in the end, it was the best court money could buy.

  • cranefly

    I have never seen so many Catholics celebrate a win for a company that invests in abortion pharmaceuticals.

  • Theo

    You say the sky has not fallen while at the same time detailing exactly how it has. This is a very bad decision, a profoundly immoral one. More and more, I believe these justices should be removed from the court, or better yet the SC dissolved. But that’s an alternate reality. This is the real world and, as you rightly point out, this is “the thin edge of the wedge.” Little did the feminists realize than when they began their lonely battle in 19th century America and again after WWII, the depth of the opposition to women’s rights and a material change in the condition of women, indeed, the hatred of women so many males held. I have always thought women, even today, have little real understanding of that hatred and how profoundly men can hold it. There are billions of women haters in the world and relatively speaking few male haters. Yes, I know not all men, but the lives of all women are blighted by these men. Even those women most critical of men never reach the levels of rage, contempt, and associated organizational energy shown by males against the welfare of women and in behalf of their exquisite regard for their own persons and their continued power to dominate.

  • Lamont Cranston

    I wonder how long it will be before a restaurant owned by Southern Baptists refuses to hire or serve black people.

  • fiona64

    I invoked that very point to an African-American male who maintained that a business should be allowed to operate in any way it so chooses, by asking which end of the Woolworth’s lunch counter should serve him. He has been remarkably silent on the subject since then.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    I’m trying to figure how it is that someone isn’t going to be able to come up with some kind of corporatist religion … one whose stated beliefs are that corporations should never be limited by anything, never subject to regulations or law, immune even to having to pay taxes … then not have every corporation sign on as “believers” (however that works) and instantly free themselves to do whatever they want, to whomever they want, whenever they want, without any accountability, because they believe themselves to be above the law, and because of that belief, they ARE above the law.

    Because that’s the natural ramification of the reasoning SCOTUS employed today. They may have “framed it as a narrow decision,” but there’s no way they can force people to keep it “narrow.” Not when profits are on the line!

  • Whiskyjack

    Well said. I expect some corporations to see how far they can push. Money motivates.

  • DKeane123

    Let’s not forget about hipocrasy – how about a christian business that serves people who have been divorced a couple of times?

  • Liya

    hahaha, Fiona. “Watch out boy she’ll chew you up’ You know how to shoot em down.

  • Christopher

    The RFRA and Hobby Lobby KILLED Lee, God be praised!

    The following is from the Hobby Lobby case ruling at footnote 43. RFRA APPLIES TO INCOME TAX! The Government can impose such a burden (tax) only if the strict RFRA test is met. That standard has been declared different than the standard in the Lee ruling.

    HHS highlights certain statements in the opinion in Lee that it regards as supporting its position in these cases. In particular, HHS notes the statement that “[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.” 455 U. S., at 261. Lee was a free exercise, not a RFRA, case, and the statement to which HHS points, if taken at face value, is squarely inconsistent with the plain meaning of RFRA. Under RFRA, when followers of a particular religion choose to enter into commercial activity, the Government does not have a free hand in imposing obliga- tions that substantially burden their exercise of religion. Rather, the Government can impose such a burden only if the strict RFRA test is met.

    ObamaCare is a tax. The RFRA now obviously applies to TAX LAW.

  • Christopher

    It was a wonderful ruling. it reestablished the right for me to decide what is moral for me and you can decide what is moral for you but you can’t force me to pay for your moral/immoral choices.

    Or do you want to be forced by the government to buy me the gun of my choice because I have the right to keep and bear arms?

  • Christopher

    Especially the women justices.

  • Christopher

    True. And why would a homosexual, like my daughter, want to eat at a restaurant that did not want to serve homosexuals? Why would she want to give them her money or support their establishment. She hopes that such people will clearly identify themselves so she doesn’t support them financially.

  • Christopher

    And if they do and you don’t like that then buy the insurance YOURSELF or work for someone else.

  • Christopher

    I do hope a restaurant that feels that way identifies themselves with such a case so my black granddaughter and I do eat there. I certainly would like to have such bigots identify themselves so I don’t support them unaware. Or would you want to give such people that maintain such bigotry in their hearts to get your money and serve you?

  • Christopher

    And would you force them to serve divorced people? Why? Do you think it is a good thing to force people to do things they feel is immoral? Would you want the government to force you to act a certain way you did agree with?

  • Christopher

    It is called the international banking system and it was really opened in full for business in 1913 AD. Heck, if they go bankrupt they get taxpayers like you to bail them out.

    And if another corporation did establish such a corporate religion then the government could still limit the corporation by meeting the two requirements of the RFRA to impose on such religious practices. Those requirements have been met by the government in several cases. Three of them were concerning hunting eagles for feathers and importing leopard skins.

  • Christopher

    And I suppose that you don’t? Or did you declare a religious vow of poverty?

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: “It is called the international banking system and it was really opened in full for business in 1913 AD.”

    I assume you’re referring to the Federal Reserve Bank. If so, I don’t know how or why you think it’s a religion. But OK. Whatever.

  • Christopher

    What is not a religion? A religion is a way of life. A standard you set for your life. If money is what you crave then that is your religion.

    Did you ever see the movie The Contender with Joan Allen where her character says: “I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves and gave women the right to vote. It gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very Chapel of Democracy that we sit in together, and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b24YF3DPiWM

    So her religion is democracy. If Democracy can be a religion so can socialism and so can banking.

    My religious doctrine includes the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Taking Up Arms and the U.S. Constitution prior to the 13th Amendment.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress cannot establish a civic or secular region. But they have, haven’t they.

    My dad had a friend who claimed chess was his religion. I know many men whose religion is Football. I know women whose religion is the mirror.

    But the elected officials of the United States have been clear that Social Security is “sacred”. How can the secular be sacred. If you have a secular religion OF COURSE.

    All laws are based on the moral beliefs of the sovereignty. If it is a king then laws are by his moral beliefs. If the king believes that serfs have no rights then that is moral and law. If We the People, the Sovereignty of the USA decide that Blacks can be slaves then that is the moral standard and the law is written. International banks owned by the Rothschilds admitted in the 1860s that they wanted to encumber stupid poor people so they could be wealthy. Marxism is a religion that has been well recognized as a civil/civic religion. Hitler was a religious figure and Heil Hitler means salvation through Hitler. He wanted to replace the Bible with Mein Kampf. So the Third Reich was a religious movement. Mao was considered god like. One Chinese girl interviewed on PBS stated: “Mao was my religion.” Roman emperors were gods.

    Agnosticism is not a religion. It is a question.

    If you have a belief you cannot prove, like atheism or democracy or marxism of fascism or Christianity or Buddhism or Social Security or banking then it is your religion.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: “What is not a religion? A religion is a way of life. A standard you set for your life. If money is what you crave then that is your religion.”

    So … a religion is whatever you happen to want to define as a religion. OK. Got it.

  • Craptacular

    Thanks for tainting my clever comment with your sexist drivel.

  • Christopher

    Don’t complain to me. Take it up with the Supreme Court and Congress. Look at the Conscience Objector cases. The main defendant did not belong to any church/religious organization. Look at the atheists that wanted and got rights under the First Amendment. Look at how the Court has stated that Ethical Culture and Humanism and ethics without worship of a divine being are religions.That just a belief in an “ultimate reality” is enough to trigger the RFRA protections. And these were the liberal courts that made most of these rulings. The Courts and Congress with the RFRA and RLUIPA (both were super majority bipartisan laws) have taken religion from meaning the devotion of a God or gods to how you conduct your life and how you FEEL.

    Like one of the authors here put it. You don’t need a god to be moral. Morality and religion are historically intertwined. Read Washington’s farewell address. Sorry if you don’t like the way the Supreme Court and lower courts and Congress define words using term of art. Look at the Hobby Lobby case. The whole thing turned on the definition of the word “person” with the Socialists demanding that the word only mean natural persons and religious non-profit corporations while the Fascist demanded that it mean all corporations, which was the correct definition as per the debates that amendment the RFRA to be even stronger than when originally passed with the RLUIPA.

    If you think we should go back to where the First Amendment religious clauses did not protect anyone that did not believe in God or just claimed deeply held feelings then you had best hope you can overturn at least 70 years of Court rulings.

  • Christopher

    Sexist? It was not my fault that the three women supported the dissent that was in direct opposition to the Congressional hearings on the meaning of the word “person” in the RFRA. It is not my fault that the ladies signed on to Ginsberg’s BS about the RFRA not applying to tax law in her opening sentence since footnote 43of the ruling clearly states that Lee did not meet the standard tests of the RFRA. It is not my fault that Ginsberg ADMITTED to making claims in the Bourne ruling in 1997 AD that were FALSE aka historically inaccurate.

    I guess I can presume that you are a religious bigot because the majority, that you claim were bought and paid for, were Catholics?

    And please understand that I don’t like ANY of those Black Robed High Priests of the New American Civil Religion and believe everyone of them should be impeached.

  • Christopher

    Here is why the employees of Hobby Lobby do not have a claim under the RFRA. This is why the ONLY question is who has to PAY for the contraceptives.
    Ginsberg’s dissent:

    Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.

    But you see the payment IS “propelled by the Government” and that is why Hobby Lobby had an RFRA case and why they won.

    The RFRA does not stop employers from violating the religious beliefs of employees. Its ONLY restrictions are on the federal government. It does not restrict one single “person” but only federal actors.

    And without Hobby Lobby paying for it female employees can STILL use any legal contraceptive they want to PAY FOR THEMSELVES!

    This is why Socialism is so EVIL. It forces people to pay for things they don’t want to pay for and DO NOT USE THEMSELVES!

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Like I said before, I get it. The Federal Reserve Bank is a religion because you say it is. I really, truly do get it.

  • Christopher

    No you do not. The people that own the Federal Reserve practice a religion.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Yes, because you’ve defined them as practicing a religion. As I said … and will repeat once more … I get it. Really. I do. The Federal Reserve is a religion. No need to try to explain any more than you’ve already attempted to. I really and truly do “get it.”

  • Christopher

    But you don’t. The Federal Reserve is a corrupt organization. It is not a religion. A religion is a set of beliefs that people live by. You could possibly call the FRB a Church. But a church is not a religion it is just a building or a structure a framework around which the practitioners assemble. The religion is the core beliefs. Bankers believe that it is their moral duty to bankrupt the world and especially to enslave the poorest of the poor and middle class in perpetual debt. They are very good at practicing their religion.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    As I said … and will repeat once again for your benefit … I get it. Really. I do. The Federal Reserve is a religion. No need to try to explain any more than you’ve already attempted to. I really and truly do “get it.”

  • Christopher

    No. You don’t. You keep claiming I believe the Fed is a religion. That is not What I am claiming. So if YOU believe that “The Federal Reserve is a religion” then that is YOUR belief. Not mine.