The law: Do corporations have religions?

A lawsuit by Hobby Lobby challenges Obamacare's requirement that large companies provide contraceptive coverage to employees.

“Is forced religious belief coming to an employer near you?” said Jamelle Bouie in the It might be, now that the Supreme Court has decided to consider whether companies can refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to employees because of their owners’ religious objections. The precedent-setting case was sparked by a lawsuit by Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts store owned by evangelical Christian David Green and his family. Under Obamacare, large companies are required to provide contraceptive coverage in their employee insurance, but the Greens—who believe, in contradiction to scientific evidence, that IUDs and the morning-after pill destroy fertilized eggs—want their company to be exempt on religious grounds, the way churches are. They want the court “to classify for-profit corporations as having religious consciences.” If companies can impose their owners’ beliefs on employees, what’s next? A refusal to hire gays and atheists because of the companies’ “sincere religious beliefs?”

The Greens aren’t forcing their religion on employees, said Ernest Istook in Contraception is “widely available and immensely affordable,” and Hobby Lobby’s health insurance covers 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives. But the Greens “draw the line” at being forced to subsidize four contraceptives that they sincerely believe are tantamount to abortion. As a result, they face a $1.3 million daily fine. It’s liberals who are “seeking to impose their values on everyone else,” said Jonah Goldberg in USA Today. The White House insists that everyone has a “right” to “free” contraception. Where did that “right’’ come from?

“But if Hobby Lobby wins, the door would be open to all sorts of exceptions,” said Amy Davidson in Transplants, blood transfusions, vaccines—“there are religions that object to them all.” The court can’t grant special privileges to one set of beliefs. “What a mess such a ruling would create!” said Harold Meyerson in Justice Antonin Scalia thought likewise in 1990, when the court rejected an appeal by two Native Americans fired after smoking the hallucinogen peyote as part of a religious ceremony. Granting religious exemptions from laws “would be courting anarchy,” wrote Scalia. Now that the religious views in question are similar to his own, “it will be interesting to see whether Scalia still believes that.”

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