In one of two major rebukes to President Obama this week (the other being the unanimous decision that overturned his NLRB appointments), Hobby Lobby won a controversial decision. The decision essentially allows closely-held private corporations with strong and well-established religious beliefs to refuse to offer birth control to employees.
A few technical points on the decision:
1) It limits only contraception on cost-sharing plans, and not other services that a company may object to: “Heck, if my company objects to medical marijuana in a state that allows it, can I be exempt?”
2) While the definition of “closely-held” was not clarified it is highly unlikely to extend to companies with non-family ownership.
3) This ruling may, in effect, only apply to self-funded companies. It is unknown if insurance carriers will make this an “option” on their off-the-shelf products.
I would expect that this will be the beginning of a few other challenges, as 48 other companies have been reported in a Huffington post report to be lining up for the same objections. This is the first time that religious-freedom protections have been applied to the “commercial, profit-making world” according to Judge Ginsberg. She points out in her dissenting opinion that Jehovahs Witnesses refuse blood transfusions, Scientologists refuses antidepressants, and Christian Scientists refuse vaccinations. It is important to note that it the ruling only applies to “closely held for-profit corporations that are run on religious principles.
The decision is poorly understood by most people. The emotions of the politics of religion and abortion have lined up on both sides for another run at each other, and the Supreme Court, apparently. Hobby Lobby is under attack while it is covering 16 of the 20 methods of birth control – exempting the four that many link to abortion- Plan B, Ella, CID and IUD with progestin. Groups are attacking this decision as an “attack on womens rights.”
The truth is something much different. The Supreme Court is charged with interpreting and upholding the constitution. This decision finds that the President and the legislation overstepped their legal rights, and violated the Religious Freedom Restoration act of 1993, which forbides the government from placing burdens on the exercising of freedom of Religion. Nothing more, nothing less.
Regardless of how one feels about this Supreme Court Decision, it is no more about human rights, than the overturn of the Presidents NLRB appointment by a rare unanimous decision is about the rights of unions.