Hobby Lobby is PEOPLE!

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that the arts and craft chain Hobby Lobby can opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate.

In a majority opinion written by conservative Justice Alito, the court wrote in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby :

The Court says that the government has failed to show that the mandate is the least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to birth control.

This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to mean that all insurance mandates, that is for blood transfusions or vaccinations, necessarily fail if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.

Really?  And why is that?  We only overrule federal law when it’s law that Justice Alito and the conservative members of the court don’t like?  Religion only trumps all else when it’s religions favored by the Republicans on the court?

Here is more from SCOTUSblog’s live-blog of the opinion’s release this morning:

Closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraception coverage.

The Court says that the government has failed to show that the mandate is the least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to birth control.

Hobby Lobby photo via DangApricot. Pope clothes via Shutterstock (Maxisport / Shutterstock.com)

Hobby Lobby photo via DangApricot. Pope clothes via Shutterstock (Maxisport / Shutterstock.com)

Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion says that the government could pay for the coverage itself, so that women receive it.

Here is a further attempt at qualification: This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to mean that all insurance mandates, that is for blood transfusions or vaccinations, necessarily fail if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.

Here is more qualification: It does not provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.

Bingo. Why are we letting corporations take religious offense to contraception but not religious offensive to the fact of someone being gay, or black, or a woman?  Does this mean a huge corporation run by a conservative Muslim can now discriminate against women?  Or someone who’s gay?  The court says “of course not!”  But the details of their decision might say otherwise.

Remember, it was only a few months ago in Arizona that Republicans attempted to pass legislation giving companies the religious right to discriminate against gays, and possibly others. This issue isn’t just about abortion. It’s about the ongoing, and somewhat ingenious, effort by conservatives to pretend that America is a country unfriendly to the very people and religions that run the entire place.  (When will a white Christian man ever be elected president, or be permitted to run a Fortune 500 company?!)

Gay legal group Lambda Legal weighed in:

“Today’s ruling is about the ACA and women’s reproductive health and rights, but, some may mistake this narrow ruling as a wide open door for religious liberty exemptions from other statutes that protect employees and the public,” Pizer added. “Today’s opinion says doing so would be incorrect. However, recent mistreatment of LGBT people in employment and other commercial settings still makes this extremely troubling. A business owner’s religious objection to a worker’s same-sex spouse or a customer’s LGBT identity is not acceptable grounds for discrimination. It is more important than ever that states and Congress enact strong, clear nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.”

I suspect that Lambda Legal’s statement is intentionally ambiguous. They want to express concern for this decision, while at the same time not acknowledging that the court may have just made it open season on minorities (if they acknowledge it, they fear, from a legal perspective, that their own words may be used against them to make it so).

Here’s an interesting additional point from SCOTUSblog:

It is extremely likely that the Obama administration will by regulation provide for the government to pay for the coverage. So it is unlikely that there will be a substantial gap in coverage.

And more qualification from the court:

Kennedy’s opinion emphasizes that in this particular case, a mechanism for accommodating employers is “already in place” so that the majority opinion does not require the Govt to create “a whole new program or burden on the Govt”

We’ve written a number of articles about the Hobby Lobby case. One of the main concerns about this case is the ongoing effort by conservatives to turn corporations into “people.”  After all, that’s what this opinion is about; permitting a rather large company to pretend that it‘s a person with religious beliefs.  As we noted in a few previous stories, if Hobby Lobby is a Christian, then when and where was the retail chain baptized?  And was Hobby Lobby circumcised?

Gaius brought up another interesting point a while back: If Hobby Lobby is a person, in addition to a corporation, then when someone sues the corporation can they then sue the people running the corporation as well? Piercing the corporation veil, as we say in the law?  Gaius Publius quotes Mike Papantonio on this very point:

At the heart of this, what you have is, you have Hobby Lobby saying, “We’re a corporation but we’re a devout Christian corporation. … If you follow that rationale, the separateness that usually distinguishes the owner of the corporation from the corporation [itself] is then destroyed. …

[So] If this thing passes, you’re going to see me suing corporations, saying there’s no distinction between your owner and you — so you, Mr. Green, who owns Hobby Lobby, I’m going to bring you into the case, and you’re not going to have any separate protection, any indemnification between you and your corporation.

It seemed only appropriate to close with this:


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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