Religious Business? Some Thoughts

The recent Supreme Court decision about Hobby Lobby being able to deny contraceptive coverage to its employees, because of … religious beliefs … has caused a major uproar.  My opinion is that it’s probably the most weasel-worded, constitutionally questionable decision the Supreme Court has reached in quite some time.   As a concept, the idea of a corporation as a person has any number of good features.  The way conservatives, and in particular this Supreme Court, have extended that to the realms of free speech and religion are not among them.   But, if corporations want to claim religious beliefs as a reason not to provide a benefit for their workers, I have an idea for making them regret it:  Make them live up to it.

I pointed out something a while back, that the ones who aren’t objecting to providing contraceptive coverage are … the insurance companies.   That’s because it costs them more to cover pregnancy and delivery costs.    Most of the strident objections seem to revolve around the idea that contraception equals abortion, since “life begins at conception.”  That’s a statement of faith, not fact.  No doctor, no scientist, anyone, can tell you when (or if) sperm meets egg, unless it happens in vitro.   Even then, it’s known that a percentage of fertilized eggs pass through without implanting, or if implanting at the wrong time, will end up being spontaneously miscarried.  But that doesn’t matter, they have a religious belief.

So, what should we do about companies that decide they have “religious objections” to not cover contraception?  As I said earlier, make them live up to it, or more properly, pay for it.   Instead of covering contraception, they have to provide insurance that covers all the costs of pregnancy and delivery, at no additional cost to the employee.  In other words, if Plan A which covers contraception is cheaper than Plan B which doesn’t, the employee gets the Plan A cost, even if they’re stuck with Plan B from their employer.   In addition, mandate that employers claiming this religious exemption must provide at least 6 months of paid maternity leave.    There can even be an additional required subsidy for child care or provision of on-site child care.

The idea is pretty simple:  If you want to claim “pro-life” or “family friendly” religious beliefs as a reason for your business to opt out of some requirements, you have to live up to – and pay for – policies that are (supposedly) in line with your beliefs.  That it may, and probably will, cost them a lot more than the requirements they opted out of?  Not the government’s problem, it’s just an alternative being implemented to enable you to “follow your religious beliefs.”

I think if the government did that, you see something within a year or two.

Businesses – particularly publicly traded ones – would suddenly decide that they’re not all that religious.    But if they keep going, they’re going to have to pay for it.

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2 responses to “Religious Business? Some Thoughts

  1. Well said, as usual. I’m actually of the belief that this comically atrocious decision lays the groundwork for a credible argument for single payer, especially as more companies claim religious objections and expand the application. More importantly, it has become imperative that we pass a Constitutional Amendment revoking corporate personhood. They are legal constructs granted certain personhood rights in order to do business, but those rights are determined by us and are not inalienable.

    It’s also critical to note that corporations are entities formed to limit financial liability. To then bestow these manufactured entities with religious rights that can be superimposed over the religious rights of the natural persons who work for them, is literally having your cake and eating it too. It’s a shield against personal financial loss AND a tool for imposing your own personal beliefs. Goes hand-in-hand with the recent policy of privatizing profits and socializing losses.

    • One of the big objections to this case was pointed out by various law school professors: That it “pierces the corporate veil” for the first time, and that is extremely dangerous to corporations. In other words, a “closely held” corporation may no longer be able to claim “the company is not me” when it comes to legal liabilities. With the Supreme Court making the decision it did, it in effect said “Yes, you are the company.” That’s why so many otherwise conservative business groups stayed far, far away from this case.