Docket 14-004-a: A Hobby Lobby Decision Special
It’s hard to figure out where to begin when it comes to the Hobby Lobby decision. For those outside the United States and might be blissfully unaware of the battle raging over here, Hobby Lobby is a corporation that operates a chain of craft stores across the United States. The corporation is owned by members of a conservative Christian family and they run the corporation in accordance with, in their words, “Christian principles.” One of those principles is an opposition to abortion and birth control. Or at least certain types of birth control which they believe cause abortions.
The Affordable Care Act, the US’ attempt to develop a rational healthcare system, requires that for-profit employers and non-religious, nonprofit employers provide their employees with health insurance policies that provide contraceptives to women at no cost. And as an aside for those of you unaware, yes, in the US, even if you have health insurance, you generally still have to pay out of pocket for medical treatment and medication. You just don’t have to pay the full cost. You pay a copay that’s either a flat fee per visit or a set percentage of the cost of your care.
Like I said, the ACA requires that for-profit corporations provide their employees with insurance policies which provide for contraception at no cost to the patient. But the owners of Hobby Lobby and a slew of other companies object to that requirement. They say it forces them to violate the tenets of their religion. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed, by a 5-4 vote.
I guess the first thing to say is that this is a bad decision. In pretty much every way. It’s internally contradictory. It lays down legal conclusions without providing any support for them. It undermines the basic principles of American corporate law. It gives preferential treatment to certain religious beliefs over other religious beliefs. And, depending on how literally you want to interpret it, solidifies the remedies created by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act so that they’re only available to those who practice a religion.