How the Religious Right Turns Freedom of Religion on its Head


Today, we found out that Hobby Lobby, the conservative religious crafts store has asked the Supreme Court to take up their crusade to deny contraception to their employees.
Lawyers for the privately-owned retail chain and its sister company Mardel Christian bookstore have said the health care law’s requirement that the company provide insurance coverage for morning-after pills, emergency birth control methods, and intrauterine devices goes against the corporation’s religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby sued the Obama administration last September over the contraception mandate.
That's just it. The Constitution provides no protection to anyone to force their religious beliefs on anyone else, much less a corporation's supposed right to dictate the private medical decisions of their employees. In fact, the Christian Right has it exactly backwards: the right to religious freedom belongs to the individual, not the employer.

But but, they will say. They're not trying to keep their employees from getting contraceptives or using them; they are just claiming the religious freedom not to pay for it in their insurance plan. This is an even more dangerous idea. When an employer provides health insurance coverage to its employees, it does so as part of the compensation package for its employees. The employer has no more right to decide for their employees what they will use that insurance to pay for than they have the right to dictate to employees what they can buy with money from their paychecks issued by a given employer.

Compensation is earned. It is not a gift; it is not a loan, it is not store credit that can only be used to buy certain things. Once one earns it, it is not the business of any employer to say how to use it.

As for the loud moaning about business' religious rights, let me be clear: if they have any, it comes a few giant steps behind the religious freedoms of individuals, i.e. employees. The constitution explicitly gives Congress three responsibilities - not coincidentally, the three things the right wing hates the most: to tax, to spend and to regulate commerce. Businesses have no more constitutional right to discriminate against their female employees in their health care plans than they do to discriminate based on race in their hiring practices.

Think about the implications of this for a minute. If Hobby Lobby has the right to deny contraception in their health insurance plans because their owners do not believe in birth control, what is to keep an employer who is a Jehovah's Witness from banning coverage for blood transfusions in their insurance plans? Jehovah's Witnesses have as much a religious objection to blood transfusions as Hobby Lobby does to birth control.

I spoke with a young woman today who is fighting to bring attention to stories of the one in three women in America who will have an abortion in their lifetimes about the critical importance of protecting this right and the availability of abortion services (interview will be posted tomorrow morning). And here we have a company trying to destroy even the basic right to birth control.

But on second thought, I'm sure this will help Republicans with their outreach to women. I am sure of it.


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