Tag Archives: Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby & The New Age of Slut-Shaming

3 Jul

Here are the wrong opinions I’ve seen in the earlier Hobby Lobby thread, rebutted. 

“Freebies”

No one is getting anything for free. Hobby Lobby offered employer-based health insurance coverage through private health insurance companies. The employees were free to choose to purchase that coverage. In the end, it was the employee – not Hobby Lobby – who was the contracting party and policyholder.  Hobby Lobby won the right to interfere with a private, legal contract between two contracting parties, neither of whom was Hobby Lobby.  By paying her health insurance premium, the employee received coverage for which she contracted, and this included coverage for certain contraceptives that require a physician’s prescription.  So, on top of the contraceptives not being free, but bought pursuant to a paid-for health insurance contract, this is Hobby Lobby interfering with the doctor-patient relationship.  

“Religious Freedom”

This case was about the extension of a legal fiction – corporate personhood – into human personhood. All of a sudden, corporate entities can have “faith” – something that is impossible, because a corporation doesn’t physically exist. Hobby Lobby’s founders are free to exercise their religion however they want. They are free to reject the contraceptives they find objectionable. They’re even free to use no contraceptives at all. No one infringed on that in any way, shape, or form. But by choosing to participate in the non-faith-based for-profit marketplace, Hobby Lobby should be treated as any other corporate entity. If Hobby Lobby wants to be a church and enjoy the exemptions from laws of general application that offend its founders, then it should have done so. The slope here is ridiculously slippery. 

“1st Amendment” or “Constitution”

This was not a constitutional case. It interpreted a federal regulation as being violative of a 1993 federal statute, which was passed to protect American Indians and their exercise of religion. From the opening of the majority opinion: 

We must decide in these cases whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 107 Stat. 1488 , 42 U.S.C. §2000bb et seq., permits the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to demand that three closely held corporations provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners.

and

Our decision on that statutory [RFRA] question makes it unnecessary to reach the First Amendment claim.” The decision is not based on the First Amendment.

and

Any First Amendment Free Exercise Clause claim Hobby Lobby or Conestoga might assert is foreclosed by this Court’s decision in Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U. S. 872 (1990).

So, no. This was not a Constitutional case, and nothing was declared unconstitutional. 

“They can buy it themselves”

Yes, they could, but they bought health insurance so that it would be covered.  Health insurance policies cost money, and they routinely cover these drugs and devices. Hobby Lobby subsidizes the premium, but it is not a contracting party. As such, it should have no say over what drugs are prescribed and covered, just like it should have no say over which doctor an employee can see, or what diseases the Bible supposedly says are real or not. The women who work for Hobby Lobby are now treated differently from other women working for other corporate entities, and their options for health insurance prescription coverage are more limited than the policies dictate. Hobby Lobby has now opened the door to businesses micromanaging the terms of other people’s contracts for them, when Hobby Lobby is not a party to the contract. 

“These drugs are objectionable; cause abortions”

No, they’re not. Now, we’re not only legally acknowledging that a legal entity can hold “faith”, but we are buying into that company’s false pseudoscience. The drugs and devices to which Hobby Lobby objected – some IUDs and the morning after / week after pills – are not abortifacients. You might believe they are, but they scientifically are not. The Supreme Court did not only rule that Hobby Lobby’s alleged “faith” overrules federal law, but also succumbed to a faith-based opinion that is rebutted by objective fact. If Hobby Lobby sincerely believes that, e.g., SSRIs are forged by Satan in the hellfire, presumably the SCOTUS would just take that without argument and allow Hobby Lobby to interfere with their employees’ health insurance contracts and forbid them from being covered under the prescription coverage provisions of the policies. Sorry, folks! Hobby Lobby’s God wants you to just buck up and live with your anxiety and depression! 

“This is limited to just this one case”. 

Looks like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was right, and the Courts are now going to be overwhelmed with awful corporate entities suing to not have to provide any contraceptive coverage at all

Business owners who don’t want to pay for their employees’ birth control are ending that coverage after the Supreme Court said they could choose on grounds of religious belief not to comply with part of the health care law. Some owners are already in touch with their brokers in the wake of Monday’s ruling. Triune Health Group Ltd. wants to know how soon it can change its coverage to stop paying for all contraceptives, said Mary Anne Yep, co-owner of the Oak Brook, Ill., company that provides medical management services. “We were ready to go when we heard the decision,” she said. Triune had filed lawsuits against the U.S. government and the state of Illinois because of requirements that they pay for contraception.

So, there you go. Women’s health comes second to a corporate entity’s alleged “faith”. As the American right continues its lurch backwards into what they envision as some pre-Roosevelt golden age, women find their status being relegated to that of a second-class citizens. After all, I don’t see Triune or Hobby Lobby demanding that health insurance contracts for male employees exclude Viagra, which can be used to commit sins. 

Slut-shaming. It’s as American as apple pie, and now endorsed by five males on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. 

Hobby Lobby: The Corporation Cult & Creeping Theocracy

1 Jul

From browser

On Monday, an all-male majority chorus of Supreme Court Justices determined that a for-profit corporation’s right to exercise its religion is inviolable, and women should probably dummy up and why aren’t they barefoot and pregnant, making them a sandwich in the kitchen, by the way? 

To clarify the ruling’s logic

(a) people have a right to free exercise of religion, under the Constitution but within the context of this case, pursuant to the 1993 “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”
(b) corporations are people; 
(c) therefore, closely held (non-publicly-traded) for-profit corporations are free to impose their owners’ “sincere religious beliefs” on employees. 

The RFRA sets up a scheme whereby a law of general applicability that allegedly interferes with a person’s free exercise of religion be strictly scrutinized to determine if it is constitutional.  The law was passed in response to American Indians’ complaints that federal actions were interfering with their ability to practice their religion and hold services. It also extends to American Indians’ use of peyote in services, and it has been cited as protecting Rastafarians from prosecution for marijuana possession.

When your smug Obama-hating buddies start in with “unconstitutional”, that’s not this case. The Hobby Lobby decision did not rule on the constitutionality of anything. 

The law is designed to protect people’s ability to worship by applying strict scrutiny to any accusation that a law of general application is violating someone’s free exercise rights. “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The test a court will apply assesses whether the burden on religion is in the  “furtherance of a compelling government interest.” The interest must be more than just routine, or a simple efficiency improvement, and relates instead to “core constitutional issues”. Secondly, the rule must be the least restrictive way in which to further the government interest.

Hobby Lobby, however, is not a person and is not exercising a religion. It is a corporate entity – a legal fiction – that sells picture frames and scrapbooking supplies. It’s not a “small business”, because this craft store chain has 15,000 employees and over 550 stores nationwide. It’s a closely held corporation, meaning it has corporate status but its shares are not publicly traded. Its fictional corporate “personhood” enables Hobby Lobby to operate and enter into contracts while limiting shareholder liability. The owners of Hobby Lobby’s shares are all evangelical Christians, and they make much of that on the company’s website. 

Hobby Lobby offers health insurance to its employees, but in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act, the policies needed to cover certain types of contraceptives. Hobby Lobby claims that it objected only to 4 of the 20 specified drugs and devices, because it believes them to be abortifacients – a point that is, itself, open to debate. (Plan B, Ella, and two types of IUDs were affected. These are the morning-after and week-after pill and prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. The Health and Human Services regulation at issue did not mandate RU-486 be covered. Scientifically, these are not “abortifacients”). 

Hobby Lobby itself was not mandated to hand contraceptives or IUDs to its employees, but merely to offer health insurance plans that covered them. Hobby Lobby argued that this mandate violated the company’s right to freely exercise its religion and sought injunctive relief enabling them to not pay for coverage of the four objectionable drugs and devices.

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito sided with Hobby Lobby. The majority, assuming the government had a compelling interest at stake, had a less intrusive way of meeting its goals. For instance, the government could pay for the devices and drugs itself, or mandate the insurers to pay for them. 

So, the outrage over Hobby Lobby is overblown insofar as it’s being made to seem as if the company objected to all contraception. It is not, however, overblown on two other points; namely, the notion that corporations are somehow sentient beings that have “faith”, and the notion that your employer can interfere with and micromanage the coverages you contract for with your health insurer. Remember – it is the policyholder who is the contracting party. 

As Justice Ginsburg’s dissent pointed out, this is a wild expansion of corporate rights at the expense of individual liberties. She noted that the majority’s decision, “invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths.” The majority basically responded that this was all no biggie. 

Corporate personhood is a legal fiction – a convenience. Yet now we’re to believe that fictional people can hold real religious beliefs – and in many cases, the rights of the fictional person override the rights of a human being. Hobby Lobby as a corporation cannot exercise religion – physically or otherwise. This is the right-wing elite’s dream of expanding the cult of the corporation – something that kicked off when the Citizens United case declared that corporations can have 1st Amendment rights to spend unlimited money to influence elections. 

Justice Alito explained why corporations should sometimes be regarded as persons. “A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends,” he wrote. “When rights, whether constitutional or statutory, are extended to corporations, the purpose is to protect the rights of these people.”

Justice Ginsburg said the commercial nature of for-profit corporations made a difference.

“The court forgets that religious organizations exist to serve a community of believers,” she wrote. “For-profit corporations do not fit that bill.”

If Hobby Lobby can, by dint of its religious personhood, pick and choose which statutes and regulations of general application it will follow, the same is true of any closely held corporation, regardless of religion. If Hobby Lobby can exercise religion and reject a health insurance mandate for certain prescriptions, then any for-profit corporation can claim “free exercise” and religion rights to reject anti-discrimination laws in hiring, or public accommodations laws. How soon before companies like Hobby Lobby have a “no gays need apply” signs out front, or “no handicapped applicants will be considered”, or “transgendered people and transvestites stay out”. 

With this ruling, it should be mandatory that companies such as Hobby Lobby issue a formal disclosure of the corporate entity’s religious beliefs so that employees can make an informed choice whether to be employed there. It won’t, though, because we have elevated corporate personhood above human personhood, and we have elevated Christianity above all other religious beliefs. 

Welcome to the new theocracy.

Collins Expresses Support for Sharia, Fiqh

26 Mar

This is a Constitutional pronouncement that my Congressman, Chris Collins, Tweeted Tuesday afternoon: 

That’s an interesting take on liberty. 

Hobby Lobby sued the government to preserve some sort of religious right to require that its predominately female workforce not have insurance coverage for certain types of contraceptives, including IUDs and the morning after pill. 

Hobby Lobby argues that requiring it to subsidize insurance plans that cover what it considers to be abortifacients violates its 1st Amendment right to freely exercise its religion. 

I’m not sure which church Hobby Lobby attends. I suppose the Chapel at Crosspoint might be large enough to accommodate an entire Hobby Lobby store, but only one. I haven’t seen a Hobby Lobby store transport itself to and from a place of worship, as I suspect that would cause an epic traffic headache every week. 

So, assuming the corporation has some form of fictional personhood involving fictional church membership and make-believe church attendance, we’re talking about a new precedent whereby a corporation can assign to itself a faith. For instance, Chik-fil-A is famously Christian and notoriously homophobic. Amazing to note that In-N-Out Burger is also run by devout Christians – flip the cup over and there’ll be scripture printed there – but they’re neither homophobic nor trying to limit their employees’ contract rights. 

When an employer provides health insurance as part of its benefits scheme, it helps to subsidize the plans. The insurance plans themselves, however, are individual contracts between the employee and the insurer. So, Chris Collins thinks that an entity that possesses fictional legal personhood should be able to come between a woman and her doctor. 

What if a company decides that its religion dictates that it be exempt from child labor laws, or from sex discrimination laws, or from prohibitions on racial discrimination? Chris Collins would support that, based on his jejune, ignorant pronouncement. 

Who is Hobby Lobby to interfere with a female employee’s medication or health care scheme? People like Collins demonized Obamacare as being a “government takeover” of healthcare, putting the government between a person and their care. But when it comes to women – true to type – corporations and conservative patriarchal government flip the script and maintain control and shame, inserting themselves between a woman and her doctor. 

Does Hobby Lobby oppose artificial dick-hardening drugs as part of its employee health plans? Are we saying #prayersforED in a Christian, Godly way to ensure that the impotent can impregnate women who then,  in turn, find their contraceptive options artificially limited? 

But I suppose we should look on the bright side. Our multicultural-embracing Chris Collins has come out strongly in favor of Sharia law. Under his logic, a corporation can declare itself to be an adherent of Islam. If a craft store decided to close on Fridays and forbid any employee health plans from offering, say, treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, Collins would apparently support that. If an employee of a Muslim craft store decided to bring a ham sandwich to lunch, the company could fire her on the spot; intoxicants and pork are haram under Sharia law and Fiqh. Collins would support, evidently, a company requiring its female employees to wear a hijab or chador, because to him, the free expression of the employer trumps the free expression of the employee. Long live our new, two-tiered Constitution!

The liberty-ish way to handle this is to say that the owners of a business have a right to practice their religion in whatever way they deem fit. However, they should not have a right to impose their religion upon their employees, who are also free to exercise (or to be free from) whatever religion they choose. The American way would be for businesses to let their employees be free to take whatever medicines their doctors prescribe, without interference. Freedom and liberty would dictate that craft stores not interject themselves into contractional relationships between their employees and those employees’ health insurance companies and physicians. 

But when it comes to big business and the role of so-called “job creators”, people like Chris Collins believe that the rights of the employer trump those of the employee. To Chris Collins, Hobby Lobby, and the new tea party plutocracy, employees are mere chair-moistening chattel. If their employer wants to impose Islamic law on them, they are free to contract for their labor elsewhere because the job market is so great thanks to the Republican jobs plan of “repeal Obamacare for the 51st time“. 

I wonder how that’ll play out in Wyoming County. 

Things for Thursday

3 Jan

A few things I found online in the last few days: 

1. Remember a few weeks ago, when NRA CEO and infamous goon Wayne LaPierre blamed everything but guns on the massacre of teachers and first graders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT? LaPierre didn’t just stumble on being a hateful lunatic – this is something that is apparently part of his job qualifications. Back in 1995, after the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrated by WNY native Timothy McVeigh, LaPierre said things so horrible and conscious-shocking that former President George H.W. Bush publicly rebuked him and resigned his NRA membership. Bush wrote, 

I was outraged when, even in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of N.R.A., defended his attack on federal agents as “jack-booted thugs.” To attack Secret Service agents or A.T.F. people or any government law enforcement people as “wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms” wanting to “attack law abiding citizens” is a vicious slander on good people.

Al Whicher, who served on my [ United States Secret Service ] detail when I was Vice President and President, was killed in Oklahoma City. He was no Nazi. He was a kind man, a loving parent, a man dedicated to serving his country — and serve it well he did.

In 1993, I attended the wake for A.T.F. agent Steve Willis, another dedicated officer who did his duty. I can assure you that this honorable man, killed by weird cultists, was no Nazi.

We can have a debate and discussion about guns, gun rights, and limitations on both – but calling people Nazis isn’t part of it. 

2. When it came to slavery, Thomas Jefferson was kind of a jerk. He was kind to some (especially if there were rapes to be had), and particularly cruel to others. He was happy to take out mortgages against his slaves, to have them flogged, and even refused to carry out a request contained in Polish General Kosciusco’s will, wherein money was set aside for Jefferson to buy out and free his slaves.  

The critical turning point in Jefferson’s thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, “I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers.” His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable.

In another communication from the early 1790s, Jefferson takes the 4 percent formula further and quite bluntly advances the notion that slavery presented an investment strategy for the future. He writes that an acquaintance who had suffered financial reverses “should have been invested in negroes.” He advises that if the friend’s family had any cash left, “every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. per cent in

this country by the increase in their value.”

The irony is that Jefferson sent his 4 percent formula to George Washington, who freed his slaves, precisely because slavery had made human beings into money, like “Cattle in the market,” and this disgusted him. Yet Jefferson was right, prescient, about the investment value of slaves. A startling statistic emerged in the 1970s, when economists taking a hardheaded look at slavery found that on the eve of the Civil War, enslaved black people, in the aggregate, formed the second most valuable capital asset in the United States. David Brion Davis sums up their findings: “In 1860, the value of Southern slaves was about three times the amount invested in manufacturing or railroads nationwide.” The only asset more valuable than the black people was the land itself. The formula Jefferson had stumbled upon became the engine not only of Monticello but of the entire slaveholding South and the Northern industries, shippers, banks, insurers and investors who weighed risk against returns and bet on slavery. The words Jefferson used—“their increase”—became magic words.

Jefferson’s 4 percent theorem threatens the comforting notion that he had no real awareness of what he was doing, that he was “stuck” with or “trapped” in slavery, an obsolete, unprofitable, burdensome legacy. The date of Jefferson’s calculation aligns with the waning of his emancipationist fervor. Jefferson began to back away from antislavery just around the time he computed the silent profit of the “peculiar institution.”

And this world was crueler than we have been led to believe. A letter has recently come to light describing how Monticello’s young black boys, “the small ones,” age 10, 11 or 12, were whipped to get them to work in Jefferson’s nail factory, whose profits paid the mansion’s grocery bills.

Much of the information in this Smithsonian story has been carefully excised from our Jefferson hagiography because 150 years later, we still can’t come to terms as a country with our history of slavery and racial animus and discrimination. 

3. Just because you employ someone doesn’t mean you have the right to inject your own opinions on their healthcare decisions. Hobby Lobby, which has two outlets in western New York, has gone to the Supreme Court to seek injunctive relief so that it would not have to provide health insurance coverage for contraception for its employees under Obamacare. Why their employees’ sex lives are any of Hobby Lobby’s business is a mystery for sure, but Obamacare doesn’t force Hobby Lobby to hand out the morning after pill with every paycheck – it merely requires the health insurers to offer contraceptive coverage. Aside from the fact that the employees affected work for Hobby Lobby, the company has no further mandate set upon it. If it doesn’t agree with contraception, it is free to hold that belief, but should not be free to impose it on its employees, or to have its employees’ rights become less than those of workers elsewhere. Justice Sotomayor rejected Hobby Lobby’s request for injunctive relief. As a shopper for crafty things and toys for grownups, you may choose to use this information to direct your hobby dollars accordingly.