Can Corporations Have Religious Beliefs? The Supreme Court Will Soon Answer That Question

A new challenge to the Affordable Care Act is the latest sign that some religious people, with all the power and privilege they already have, just want more.

When the ACA went into effect, it exempted religious organizations from having to fulfill the contraceptive requirement. In other words, if you were a pastor of a large church, you didn’t have to provide your employees with birth control if it went against your religious “conscience.”

The ACA did not offer the same exemption to public, for-profit companies owned by religious people — as well it shouldn’t have. Just because the owner of a huge company like, say, Hobby Lobby, is an evangelical Christian, should he be able to withhold contraception from those who work for him?

Just give me my paycheck, please.

Right now, the answer is no. But yesterday, the Supreme Court announced it would hear challenges to that rule. (While similar challenges were initially filed by Catholic business owners, these two cases in particular concern evangelical Christian and Mennonite owners.)

The justices agreed on Tuesday to review provisions in the Affordable Care Act requiring employers of a certain size to offer insurance coverage for birth control and other reproductive health services without a co-pay.

At issue is whether private companies can refuse to do so on the claim it violates their religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases involving for-profit corporations. Among the plaintiffs is Hobby Lobby, Inc. a nationwide chain of about 500 arts and crafts stores.

David Green and his family are the owners and say their Christian beliefs clash with parts of the law’s mandates for comprehensive coverage.

They say some of the drugs that would be provided prevent human embryos from being implanted in a woman’s womb, which the Greens equate to abortion.

The privately held company does not object to funding other forms of contraception — such as condoms and diaphragms — for their roughly 13,000 employees, which Hobby Lobby says represent a variety of faiths.

First of all, Green and his family are just plain wrong when they say birth control is equivalent to abortion. (When it comes to evangelicals, it’s hardly stereotyping at this point to suggest that they don’t want to grasp basic science because Jesus.) He also neglects to understand that some women take the Pill for reasons that have nothing to do with sex.

On that matter, this isn’t just a war on Green’s “religious conscience.” This is a war on science and sex. Green doesn’t care that the FDA has said birth control pills don’t cause abortions — rather, they prevent abortions from happening, which you would think he’d totally support — but he believes they cause abortions. So there. And it’s hardly a surprise that an evangelical would be opposed to women having sex that doesn’t lead to a child, though Green has no problem paying for his employees’ Viagra pills…

David Green thinks his religious beliefs ought to trump those of his employees. He doesn’t want them making their own health care decisions; he thinks he knows better than they do.

There’s another issue here, too: If the Supreme Court rules in Green’s favor, where is the line drawn? What if a business owner is a Jehovah’s Witness who doesn’t believe in blood transfusions? Or a Christian Scientist who believe in the power of prayer over medicine?

That the Supreme Court thinks this is a case worth hearing is frightening. That they could rule in the religious owners’ favor is a disaster in the making.

In a public statement, Green said:

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.

But no one is asking him to violate his faith. No one is forcing him to do anything that violates his beliefs. I’m sure my own employers have their precious religious beliefs, too, but when they hand me a paycheck, they don’t get to control what I do with that money. If they don’t like how I spend it, too damn bad. But Green believes he should have that control; he wants to dictate what health care options his employees have.

As Cathy Lynn Grossman summed up so well, “If you are a boss, how much say do you want in the family life of employees?”

If you’re a boss, the relationship needs to be kept professional. Your concern should be limited only to what your employees do while on the clock.

What sort of awful boss asks the Supreme Court to change the law in order to make life more miserable for his employees?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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