Fronting The Brand


I’m recycling a title here. I started the theme a few weeks ago in response to the stance taken by some American business enterprises:

Chick-fil-A was the featured enterprise then. Now it’s Hobby Lobby. Full disclosure: The person who runs things in this house is sometimes a customer of Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby, Inc. was founded by David Green in 1972. The current president is Steve Green, an evangelical Christian. Green’s other activities include promoting Bible study courses for public schools.

What is at stake here follows from two clauses in the First Amendment of the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …

The first clause keeps the government from establishing a religion or giving support to a religion. The second clause prevents the government from interfering in the practice of religion. To a point.

I call the second clause the “Right to Act Foolishly in Public Clause.” Clearly, if a sect’s religious practices involve human sacrifice, the law is going to step in. Courts have gone further in allowing legal intrusions. Parents who, for religious reasons, deny medical care to minor children can be and have been prosecuted for felony crimes.

There can be more benign cases. A church that rings its bells too loudly on Sunday morning might be forced to tone it down. A mosque that broadcasts calls to evening prayer too loudly might also find itself in violation of local noise ordnances.

The issue in the Hobby Lobby case is that the Affordable Care Act requires concerns employing 50 or more people to sponsor a health insurance plan. Stop just a moment. I have worked at a number of companies that provided health insurance plans, and in no case was the company required to pay any or all the premiums. Some companies I worked for provided the plans, but I was required to pay the premiums. Nobody has said that employers, and particularly Hobby Lobby, would be required to pay the premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

The deal, then, with Hobby Lobby is the owners of the company, the Green family, do not even want to touch anything smelling of abortion. Contraception is no worry for the Greens. CNN this morning reported that the company has no problem with their insurance plans covering 20 different methods of contraception. The remaining four, the owners have decided, provide the opportunity to induce abortions and thus terminate life. To this they object.

A minor problem is the scientific consensus holds that these four, including the so-called morning after pill, do not have the capability to induce abortion. The owners apparently have their own view of science, which view they obtained from sources unknown. If the Greens reached that view through religious inspiration, then this is yet another case of religion trumping science. Which explains the cover image for this post.

The Public Accommodations Act (Civil Rights Act of 1964) requires public business to serve the public without bias. This was instituted in response to businesses at the time that refused service to certain races and ethnic groups. Courts have more recently extended this protection to people of diverse sexual orientation.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from a studio that refused to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony, letting stand a New Mexico high court ruling that helped spur a national debate over gay rights and religious freedom.

However, the Hobby Lobby case does not involve customers, only employees.

As I write this the Supreme Court is preparing to announce its decision in the Hobby Lobby case. I will continue in a few minutes when the decision is announced.

The Court has just handed down the decision in the Hobby Lobby case. CNN reports that legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is reading the decision and will announce the results shortly.

And it’s 5-4, with Justice Samuel Alito writing the opinion. The opinion of the Court is that Hobby Lobby is a “closely-held” concern and, as such, can express its religious preferences contrary to national law.

What’s the impact?

Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan will not be required to cover the objected pharmaceuticals. No big deal. This stuff is cheap. Women do not need insurance to pay for a “morning-after” pill. But wait.

If a doctor’s prescription is required, will there be a stipulation in the insurance plan that no physician will be allowed to prescribe the medication? Some additional digging is required, and I will take that on later.

In the mean time this decision appears to be heavily political. All five justices concurring with the decision were appointed by Republican presidents. All four justices dissenting were appointed by Democratic presidents. All three women in the Court voted against this decision. Surprise, surprise!

No man is going to have his insurance coverage affected by this decision. Again we have decisions affecting only women decided only by men. Folks, that’s the way it is in the Bible. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it’s going to be.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

9 thoughts on “Fronting The Brand

  1. If I recall correctly, most of the 5-man conservative pack on the high court is Roman Catholic. This is the way I would expect them to rule if they were basing the ruling on their own religion.

    I think this is the first slip down the slippery slope to the following:

    “Lunch breaks here at the company will last one hour. You may eat in privacy during the first half hour. Beginning next Monday, all company employees will be required to come to the conference during the second half hour of lunch to participate in KJV Bible studies. From now on, attendance at this Bible study meeting will be a mandatory requirement for all company employees each day of the work week.”

    Outfits such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A, which are basically Christian fundamentalist churches disguised as businesses, will not be getting any of my business dollars.

    • Thanks for commenting. The analyses I have seen on TV so far this morning indicate the majority were willing to limit the scope of religious intrusion. Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin of CNN pointed out the argument that this application of the ACA was government overreach. More sever cases of religious intrusion would not be protected. We can only hope.

  2. For health reasons, my daughter is not able to use the pill, so the IUD is her only choice. Her Obamacare insurance paid for it. Thankfully, she doesn’t get her insurance from Hobby Lobby. The claim that birth control is cheap, and any woman can afford it is just more religious-right propaganda. It falls into the same category as their lies about the four forbidden methods of contraception being abortifacients. They’ve never hesitated to lie when it suits them.

    • Marsisi,

      Thanks much for commenting. My reply:

      Up front – this blog is not about political advocacy. It’s aptly named Skeptical Analysis. That said, here are some facts.

      I am over 30 years into my second marriage. The “sexual revolution” had just started when I got married the firs time, so I only have experience with women on “the pill.”

      Some, not all, contraceptive plans are cheap. I see “the pill” advertised for $18. I assume this is a one month supply. Some procedures are not cheap, and the cost cannot be brought down by volume production the way the cost of the original pill was.

      Many women cannot use the pill. They must use a more expensive method.

      Now about insurance: I have blogged on this before. Insurance, strictly speaking, is for accidents and emergencies only. Contraception, except in the case of the morning after pill, is not an accident, and it is not an emergency. From the time a woman is born she knows she will need a three or more decades supply. It’s like a dental plan. You know you are going to need your teeth cleaned twice a year, and you may or may not require orthodontic treatment and cavities to fill. I have health insurance (Medicare), and I pay my own dental expenses.

      Both men and women require dental care. Men do not require the contraceptives. Except.. I had a vasectomy at the age of forty, and it was not covered by my employer’s insurance plan. Some women need these “contraceptive” medications for reasons other than contraception.

      The employer does not pay employees’ health insurance premiums. Traditionally the employee pays. The employee may not notice he is paying, but he is. The employer could forgo paying the premiums and give the employee the difference as salary. Surprise, surprise! There likely is a tax benefit if the employer pays.

      Paying the premiums is not a problem with Hobby Lobby. They already pay. They just don’t think women should have certain medical procedures. They can’t stop them from having them, but they feel justified in not assisting.

      I have mentioned the low cost of some contraceptive medications. This is usually not the only cost. If the medication requires a physicians’s prescription, then an office visit is required. Does Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan not cover this visit, and how? Does the insurance plan have language such as “Doctors being reimbursed under this plan may not prescribe or discuss with the patient the following medications…?” States have passed laws that prevent doctors from discussing abortion while being reimbursed with state funds.

      Clearly, this case involved a person in power, the employer, exercising his religious preferences over people with less power, the employees. Unfortunately some conservative judges do not see a problem with this. And it’s all our fault. Every time we vote for a Republican president or a Republican Senator we are voting for religious oppression. Every time we stay home on polling day we are allowing a Republican to cast our vote. We need to stop doing that.

  3. I may have given the impression that my daughter is younger than she is. She has been married for 19 years, has one adult child, and does not wish to have additional children. The Republicans have framed their message on contraception in terms of young, single women wanting somebody else to pay for their sexual activities. (See Limbaugh’s comment re. Sandra Fluke.) Too many voters, especially voters in Texas (where I live), have fallen “hook, line and sinker” for that lie. I completely agree with you about [not] voting for Republicans.

  4. The Hobby Loby case was decided by application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, not the First Amendment. RFRA is a law passed by Congress that restricts Congress’ own authority. SCOTUS has already ruled that it cannot be applied to the states like the First Amendment. RFRA needs either to be repealed or – which seems unlikely – struck down by SCOTUS. So don’t blame the First Amendment.

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