Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties today argued their case against Obamacare’s contraception mandate before the Supreme Court, and not surprisingly the three left-wing female members of the SCOTUS pounced wondering why laws intended to protect religious freedom should apply to business owners conducting their business in accordance with their religious beliefs:
Justice Sotomayor started by asking, if corporations can object on religious grounds to providing contraception coverage, could they also object to vaccinations or blood transfusions? Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the challengers, said that contraception is different, because the government has already given an exemption to religious nonprofits. Justice Kagan then said that there are several medical treatments to which some religious groups object, and if corporations could object to providing coverage for those treatments, “everything would be piecemeal. Nothing would be uniform.”
Much of the challengers’ argument is centered on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which is aimed at preventing laws that substantially limit a person’s religious freedom. The law grew out of a conflict over whether two Native Americans could be dismissed from their jobs as drug counselors for using drugs in a religious ritual. The architects of the law said they intended it to be a protection of religious rights, not an excuse to foist religious principles on others.
Justice Ginsberg said it “seems strange” that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed by both parties, could have generated such support if lawmakers thought corporations would use it to enforce their own religious beliefs.
The problem with Justice Ginsberg’s formulation of religious freedom is that it would require that businesses be obligated to provide certain benefits to employees even when they find those benefits to be immoral.
How is a law obligating one person to supply someone else with something unwillingly in any way freedom? And how is a Christian refusing to pay for an employee’s contraception in any way enforcing religious beliefs on other people?
Hobby Lobby employees are not prohibited from buying contraception. The company simply does not want to be forced to purchase it for them.
If a Muslim butcher refuses to serve pork, is that enforcing Islam upon others? If a vegetarian restaurant refuses to serve hamburgers, are they enforcing their views on others?
A freedom cannot be something that obligates someone else. That is not freedom. While I firmly believe that women (and men for that matter) have every right to access contraception – indeed, while I am very much pro-contraception personally – that freedom does not come with a requirement that other people purchase it for you.
Particularly amusing are the slogans about how contraception is “not my boss’s business,” but Obamacare makes it your boss’s business, by the letter of the law. I’d argue that these fights over what health insurance and health care should and should not be, based on all manner of religious and political views, are exactly why we shouldn’t want a health insurance system that is “uniform,” as Justice Sotomayor put it, and based on someone else footing the bill.
The conflict at the root of these debates isn’t really religious. It’s not about whether or not contraception or abortion is moral. It’s about whether or not you having the liberty to do something creates an obligation for someone else to provide you with something. Having the right to access contraception isn’t the same thing as requiring someone else provide it for you.