Monday, June 30, 2014

Still unanswered questions

In all the hullaballoo over the Hobby Lobby decision, I still haven't heard anybody — not Hobby Lobby or its allies, certainly not the Justices in the majority — answer the objection that many of us have raised from the beginning. To quote myself:
To object to healthcare insurance premiums because the insurance might pay for contraception is as nonsensical as objecting to paying the employee at all because he might use his salary to pay for contraception at the drugstore.
How does it impermissibly burden Hobby Lobby's founder to pay an insurance premium for a policy that covers, but does not require, contraception? He's already paying his employees straight salaries that — gasp! — they might use to buy contraceptives at the drugstore. How do these situations differ from the founder's perspective?
  • In both cases, it's the employee's choice to purchase the contraception. Nobody is holding a gun to Hobby Lobby's founder's head to buy it.
  • In both cases, the employer is simply paying the employee; the only difference is the form of the compensation.
  • Since when has it been acceptable for your boss to dictate how you spend your pay? You are not an indentured servant and the boss is not a plantation owner.
Why are the boss's qualms more important than my legal rights? Hell, why are the boss's qualms more important than mine? Answer me that, O Justices in the majority.

They can't. This case should never have been accepted for adjudication by the High Court. Hobby Lobby's arguments were so fatuous that they could only be taken seriously by ideologues seeking any excuse (1) to undermine a law they didn't like, and (2) to confuse contraception with abortion in hopes of delegitimizing the former. The second goal is widely supported by Catholics, and it's hard not to believe that Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Roberts weren't unduly influenced by their Catholicism.

Finally, here's a bigger question: if it's impermissible to constrain the expression of religious belief in the context of business, then where is it permissible to constrain the expression of religious belief? What is the religious equivalent of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater? Where may I seek relief from being subjected to another's religious views and behavior?

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