I heard a really good discussion on a podcast regarding the recent supreme court decision known as the ‘Hobby Lobby’ decision. I admit I didn’t know much of the details since the media has just been focusing on the womens rights impact. But it actually raises a bunch of interesting issues.
If you are up for some not-so-light reading, you can read the full opinion here:
If you don’t want to read the full opinion – here is my summary (and anybody is free to correct me if I missed something:
The decision was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) which says that non profits can be exempt from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive mandate, on religious grounds. This was put in the act presumably for churches and religious charities. The supreme court majority decided that if religious exemptions can apply to religious non-profits, it can also apply to closely held companies where the owners have demonstrated strong religious convictions.
The opinion also makes the point entities opting out of the contraceptive mandate has minimal impact on the recipients of health care. This is because anybody who is covered under the ACA by a company exempt from the contraceptive mandate can get the coverage directly from the insurer at no additional cost. The burden of religious exemption is a key piece in the RFRA allowance for religious exemptions.
Justice Ginsburg’s dissent (which starts on page 60 of the ruling) brings up some good points. Ginsburg argues the court did not consider whether the contraception mandate is a ‘substantial burden’ in their exercise of religion. Also, for profit corporations have a different mission than non-profits – a for-profit corporation presumably is created to make money.
What I find disappointing about the media coverage of the decision is the focus on reproductive rights, the bigger issue here is spreading religious rights to corporations. The problem that I see is with the corporatization of church organizations made it possible for the court to rule their is little difference between the two.
So the big question is, can a corporation have a religion? I would argue no – the owners of corporations do, but corporations are agnostic. The owners of corporations should create a separate non-profit and funnel their business profits into that organization. I would even argue sole-proprietorships should not have the right to claim religious affiliations in the running of the business.
This religious corporation issue is the issue America and the media should be debating, but it seems to be just a side note to the birth control issue. I think the religious corporation is much more dangerous.