In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Inc. the Supreme Court ended its flirtation with unanimity and ruled 5-4 in favor of corporate theocracy.
This lawsuit involved 71 for profit corporations, that challenged the birth control mandate based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993) which precludes laws from imposing a substantial burden on an individual’s ability to practice their religion.
While deciding that the contraception mandate didn’t meet RFRA requirements for closely held companies, the all-male majority dodged the question of whether the Government has a compelling interest in providing women with FDA-approved contraceptives.
Conventional wisdom suggested this case would split 5-4 along party lines with Justice Kennedy tilting the balance. It was difficult to speculate which way Kennedy would rule. During argument, he asked about the implications for employees’ religious freedoms should the Court rule in Hobby Lobby’s favor. He also asked (erroneously) if a ruling against Hobby Lobby means employers would be “forced” to pay for abortions.
Now we know. Kennedy placed a higher priority on giving corporations the right to impose their religious beliefs on employees than on the rights of those employees. In his separate, but concurring opinion, Kennedy went so far as to suggest no real harm done to women because the government could provide women with birth control under the “existing program.”
In her dissent, Justice Ginsberg called the majority opinion a “decision of startling breadth” – a point disputed by Justice Kennedy. In fact, this ruling opens the door for corporations to impose their religious dogma on employees not only with respect to their access to healthcare, but potentially anti-discrimination laws, be it prohibitions against discrimination in the work place, or prohibitions against gender based pay discrimination.
In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Shenna Bellows, Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate for Maine, pointed out just how critical voting in this year’s election will be.
Neither your boss nor the government should interfere in your personal decisions about whether or when to use birth control.Today’s horrible Supreme Court decision disregards women’s health and opens the door to religious discrimination by employers. We need leadership in Congress who will stand up for reproductive freedom without exceptions.
Not only do we need a Congress that will stand up for reproductive freedom, we need a Supreme Court that knows employees are people and corporations are not.
In fact, the ruling not only gives legitimacy to the charade that corporations actually practice religions; it gives primacy to that fiction over the religious freedoms of human beings. It also gives corporations a fig leaf to deny their employees access to a myriad of services and discriminate against them if it’s the corporation’s “religious” belief. Let’s not forget this also amounts to further advancing gender based discrimination in healthcare.
As Ruth Bader Ginsberg pointed out in her dissent: “”Women of childbearing age spend 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men.”
One can bet that if this case was about denying men access to the little blue pill, the all-male majority would have ruled differently.
Image: USA Today