The Supreme Court is considering two cases that question whether Obamacare can set requirements for health insurance, even if the companies providing that insurance object to those requirements on religious grounds.
In particular, the Affordable Care Act requires large employers to provide preventative care at no cost, which includes contraceptive services. Note that religious non-profits are already exempt from this requirement, but not for-profit corporations. Hobby Lobby, the plaintiff in one of the cases and run by conservative Christians, claims that this violates their religious rights.
On it’s face this is bizarre, because it extends the already controversial decision in Citizen’s United that corporations are people and thus eligible for free speech rights, to now make them eligible for religious rights. That’s right, corporations would be able to have religious rights.
The implications of this are staggering. Could a corporation refuse to pay taxes because of religious objections to how the money is spent? Could they avoid civil rights laws or child labor laws based on religious views?
Even worse, does this mean that corporations would be allowed to dictate the behavior of their employees, including employees who do not share their religious views? Can a corporation tell an employee that they may not use any money from their paycheck to purchase liquor, for example? Can a company run by Christian Scientists, who believe that illness should be cured by prayer, refuse to provide any medical insurance at all? Some religions even claim that AIDS is God’s punishment for promiscuity and homosexuality. If corporations can refuse to cover contraception on religious grounds, shouldn’t they be allowed to refuse to cover treatment for STDs?
What’s ironic about this is that these cases claim to be about religious freedom, but they would end up making the (new) religious freedom of corporations trump the religious freedom of real people. After all, a corporation’s religious beliefs would be allowed to dictate what kind of health care coverage is received by their employees.
What makes this hypocritical is that until a few years ago, Hobby Lobby did cover contraceptives in their health insurance plans. It wasn’t until the introduction of Obamacare, and the resulting publicity, that they dropped coverage of contraception from their health plan. This is obviously a very deeply held religious belief.