Everything is impossibly complicated

I’m become more and more discouraged about the thoughtless outrage from the Left about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Typical of the arguments is an article on Daily Kos, SCOTUS sold your soul to the company store in Hobby Lobby case, where the claim is made that

Hobby Lobby and various other so-called “Christian” corporations are attempting to [force] their ideals upon their employees…this is all about the corporate owners forcing their belief system onto their employees

Except it’s not.

If Hobby Lobby were to tell its employees that they were not permitted to use certain forms of contraception, that would be forcing their belief system onto their employees. That’s not what’s happening. The owners of Hobby Lobby don’t want to pay for contraceptives that they find morally repugnant, because they consider them to be abortion-causing (in that they end the life of a fertilized egg). That’s part of their religion. Forcing them to pay for those contraceptives pressures them to transgress their religious beliefs and violates their freedom of religion.

Just because the religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby’s owners have real consequences that have real effects on people (their employees) doesn’t mean Hobby Lobby is forcing their beliefs on their employees. A person who decides to drop a few of his friends because of his new religion wouldn’t be forcing his religion on them. What people (and corporations) do will always affect others, because none of us lives in a vaccuum. If we want to live in a pluralistic, diverse society, we have to be ok with dealing with some negative effects of other people’s free decisions.

Even worse is the argument offered by John Oliver, in a transcript you can read at (again) Daily Kos:

What these companies are arguing is that the sincerity of their beliefs should allow them a line item veto over federal law. But government is not an à la carte system where you can pick and choose based on your beliefs.

This is the worse argument I’ve ever heard, and it reflects an appalling lack of understanding of our legal system. Congress cannot pass just any law that it wishes. It’s restricted by our Constitution, which defines what kinds of laws Congress may pass. If Congress passes a law that violates the Constitution, then companies (or individuals) can, in fact, demand and receive a line item veto over that (illegal) federal law.

But there’s even more than that. What was at issue here wasn’t even the Constitution. What was at issue was a law passed by Congress, called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The “contraception mandate” that was at issue was a regulation issued by President Obama the Obama administration under the authority given to him it by Congress in the Affordable Care Act. But the president can’t just issue any regulations he wants, and in particular, he can’t issue regulations that violate laws passed by Congress. Here, the contraception mandate was found to violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law passed by Congress.

Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it irrational. The foundation of our law, and at least one individual federal law, protects certain sincerely-held religious beliefs from being violated by the government. If you’re going to attack an idea, it’s best that you understand the full idea first. Otherwise you just sound foolish.

This article from The Atlantic is worth a read: Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America? It helped shape and clarify my ideas.


Comments on: "Hobby Lobby: The Left is Wrong" (2)

  1. 1. Obama did not issue the contraception mandate, and had nothing to do with this interpretation of the PPACA. That regulation was issued by HHS via cabinet Secretary Kathleen Sibelius. You framed an argument against someone who wasn’t involved.

    2. Even in the opinion written by Justice Alito, the Court majority admitted that the 4 methods objected to by the Green family were NOT “abortifacients”. In other words, they got the science wrong, but in the majority view a sincere religiously-based objection gets exemption EVEN IF IT’S FACTUALLY INCORRECT. Dogma now gets to trump fact. That’s quite shocking.

    The main problem with this Court decision is the absurd expansion of corporate “personhood”. The idea that a company (being equal to a person in terms of legal rights) can somehow hold a religious view is ridiculous, logically indefensible. That’s the point of John Oliver’s argument. You can’t equate the legal fiction of a corporation with individual rights and protections. Companies don’t get to cherry-pick which laws to obey.

    • forsakenq said:

      1. I admit that saying President Obama issued the regulation is incorrect. I should have used the commonly-accepted term “Obama administration” instead. I think it’s probably a bit of a stretch to say that the president had “nothing to do” with this interpretation of the law, but either way it has little effect on my argument.

      2. It’s an interesting idea, that perhaps religious groups could be permitted to hold to their doctrines while being required to accept facts found in a court of law. In this case, perhaps closely-held companies could refuse to pay for abortions, but couldn’t refuse to pay for contraceptives that aren’t actually abortion-causing. But it does seem like to some extent, religious freedom requires allowing religious groups to disagree with commonly-accepted facts. Otherwise you have the objectionable situation of courts in effect deciding matters of religion for people.

      I don’t see this decision as an expansion of corporate “personhood.” While it certainly is illogical to think that a company can hold a religious view, it’s not illogical for the people who own the company to hold a religious view. In this case in particular, the company is not a publicly-owned company that has thousands of owners (stockholders) who’ve appointed a board to oversee the company. It’s a private company owned by a religious family. And it’s their religious freedom that is the concern here.

      But your last statement, echoing John Oliver, that “companies don’t get to cherry-pick which laws to obey,” has nothing to do with the idea of “corporate personhood.” NOBODY, corporation or person, gets to cherry-pick which laws to obey. Nonetheless, both corporations and persons have rights under the law which prevent arbitrary laws from being forced on them. Nobody is cherry-picking here. A legitimate right held by the owners of Hobby Lobby under the law was violated by a regulation promulgated by the Obama administration, and that legal right was recognized by the Supreme Court.

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