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Kathleen Parker: Dershowitz & Starr agree on religious freedoms: A matter of principle

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  • slcdenizen t-ville, UT
    March 27, 2014 5:11 a.m.

    Why are we making this case larger than it has to be? If providing certain health care requirements conflict with their religious beliefs, they are not required to provide health care to their employees. It's that simple. Encourage employees to sign up for the state's insurance exchange where the stores are located. Then the corporate office has its' hands clean of providing abortifacients. Unless of course they want to collect the tax benefits of offering health care and refuse to give up that incentive. But that's just me being cynical, isn't it?

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    March 27, 2014 6:29 a.m.

    Re: the author's sidebar...

    Ah, yes, it is so easy to be anti-abortion. There are the "moral" and "righteous" credits to be gained, and the justification these provide for being judgmental. And all while bearing no responsibility whatsoever for the lives we pat ourselves on the back for "saving."

    Another of life's little mysteries: How some can be so concerned about theoretical lives, yet so oblivious to the actual living beings right in front of them.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    March 27, 2014 7:21 a.m.

    If Hobby Lobby wins, corporations will quickly discover that they have all kinds of religious objections to many of our laws. Just one example: Promoting women to supervise men conflicts with some statements in the bible. Will anti-discrimination laws be the next case?

  • Badgerbadger Murray, UT
    March 27, 2014 7:34 a.m.

    When you have a liberal Harvard Law professor who can see that the principle of religious freedom does matter, that is a pretty strong endorsement, and it is refreshing to see that someone who believes differently can consider and see the other side's point of view. A far more dignified position than, "my boss needs to buy contraceptives for me, nanny nanny nanny, no exceptions." I am sure by tomorrow this comment page will be filled with insensitive comments by cynical people who think they have the right to tell others what to think, do, and buy for them.

    It's $9 a month folks. Your employer pays you money, and you are welcome to use that money to buy the contraceptives you want. You are completely free. Quit playing the victim card while trying to enslave your employer.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    March 27, 2014 7:39 a.m.

    How about the bigger picture. It seems that the crux of this case is that Hobby Lobby should not have to fund something that runs counter to their religion.

    But, cant you take this far beyond healthcare?

    Couldn't an LDS businessman refuse to hire someone who smokes or drinks since they would be ultimately providing the funds to purchase these products?

    Could a Catholic business owner fire someone who gets divorced?

    Can a businessman refuse to provide maternity leave or childbirth coverage to the unmarried?

    How about limiting maternity coverage to only 1 child?

    Be careful how broadly you paint with a religious brush. The exemptions just might expand to include you.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    March 27, 2014 8:06 a.m.

    @ JoeBlow

    I read the transcript of the hearing and this is what Justice Kennedy seemed to be wrestling with. How does the court not tread on religious freedom without opening the door to the varying religious doctrines on a wide array of activities and behaviors. HL's counsel conceded that the courts would in fact have to deal with this, and determinations would necessarily have to be made on a case-by-case basis. Can you imagine the number of cases that could be filed? There goes more of my tax dollars in the service of religion. Maybe I could file a lawsuit objecting to it...

  • The Skeptical Chymist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    March 27, 2014 8:26 a.m.

    My problem with a major line of jurisprudence centers on the idea that a corporation is a person, with the rights of a person. This original error in interpretation by the Supreme Court has now led to unlimited spending on political campaigns by corporations, which is permitted by the doctrine that to limit such spending would infringe on their right to free speech. In this case, Hobby Lobby is attempting to gain religious freedom rights for corporations as well.

    A major purpose of incorporation of a family business is to separate the monetary holdings of the corporation from those of the family, so that a bankruptcy will allow the family to retain their personal assets. If a family feels so strongly that they want their corporation to have all the rights of a person, and not have to obey the laws that apply to all other corporations, then I think they should disincorporate and eliminate the distinction between the family assets and the corporate assets. Then, it would be fair to say that the corporation has all the rights that are awarded to individual persons.

  • The Skeptical Chymist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    March 27, 2014 8:31 a.m.

    Also, I tend to agree with Justice Scalia's remarks in the 1989 case "Employment Division v Smith", in which he wrote:

    “[T]he right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability... The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind, ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races… To permit this, would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

    I hope (but do not expect) that Justice Scalia will be consistent with the views he expressed in 1989.

  • Happy Valley Heretic Orem, UT
    March 27, 2014 8:37 a.m.

    Fact is Hobby Lobby sends millions of dollars to China for it's products.
    China not only encourages abortions after one child but the state pays for it.

    Hobby Lobby already covered 16 of the 20 methods of contraception mandated under the Affordable Care Act, but it didn't cover Plan B One-Step, Ella (another brand of emergency contraception) and two forms of intrauterine devices. This is because the owners of Hobby Lobby have incorrectly labeled these methods of birth control and emergency contraception as abortifacients; a claim popular among anti-choice ideologues but refuted by scientific evidence and major reproductive health associations.

    Hobby Lobby is hoping the Supreme Court will swallow pseudo-science as medical fact, which, put politely, requires some serious guts. However it seems denying science is hip with the conservative crowd so ignoring the facts or science won't be hard.

  • Stalwart Sentinel San Jose, CA
    March 27, 2014 9:31 a.m.

    Following conservative logic then I, as a Mormon, ought to be able to directly ask prospective employees in a job interview whether they drink, smoke, or have had premarital sex. Should they answer in the affirmative to any of these questions then I would be justified to not hire them on the basis that my "religious for profit" company (oxymoron, if there ever was one) doesn't allow for such sinful acts among it's employees.

    Further, I will be legally justified to fire an employee for engaging in premarital sex, chewing tobacco, or drinking coffee. Who could find anything problematic with such a conservative utopia? Freedom!

    The painful truth here is that conservatives are terribly short-sighted. They love this idea of corporate religion when it suits them for a political purpose but wait until the tables are turned.

  • OneWifeOnly San Diego, CA
    March 27, 2014 11:34 a.m.

    How does society or the courts determine the religion of a corporation. Most corporations have more than one shareholder. If the individuals making up the shareholders of a corporation all have different religious views, then what religion is the corporation? If all of the stockholders of Hobby Lobby currently are members of the same religion but at some point in the future one or more are converted to a different religion, is the corporation automatically converted too? -- or does the corporation need to be baptized first? Bottom line, corporations are not people.

  • J in AZ San Tan Valley, AZ
    March 27, 2014 11:55 a.m.

    If the court rules in favor of the Greens and Hahns, this is likely to be a highly constrained ruling that will apply only to businesses owned by a single family. The logic being that no matter what legal form was used to organize the business, it is an extension of the lives of the owners.

    Joe Blow wrote, "Couldn't an LDS businessman refuse to hire someone who smokes or drinks ?" They already can do that by saying that the smoking/drinking applicant isn't a good fit for their staff. It's still legal in the private world to reject applicants that you don't like.

    HV Heretic wrote, "This is because the owners of Hobby Lobby have incorrectly labeled these methods ...; a claim popular among anti-choice ideologues but refuted by scientific evidence and major reproductive health associations." That doesn't matter. The FDA approved product labeling states that they may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. That approved information is all that matters in the regulatory world until the manufacturers of these drugs and devices present an application with scientific evidence to the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research to get that labeling changed.

  • J in AZ San Tan Valley, AZ
    March 27, 2014 12:09 p.m.

    More comments

    slcdenizen wrote, " Unless of course they want to collect the tax benefits of offering health care and refuse to give up that incentive." Under the current tax code, dropping health coverage and paying the $2000 per employee per year winds up being more profitable for the business.

    Roland Kayser wrote, "If Hobby Lobby wins, corporations will quickly discover that they have all kinds of religious objections to many of our laws.' As previously stated, if the Green and Hahn families win, the court will probably limit the decision so far as to make it applicable only to businesses owned by a single family that has moral objections to those four drugs and devices. No one else gets a piece of the pie.

  • J in AZ San Tan Valley, AZ
    March 27, 2014 12:29 p.m.

    And some more comments

    The Skeptical Chymist wrote, "my problem with a major line of jurisprudence centers on the idea that a corporation is a person." This is not a new or novel legal theory. The concept that a corporation has legal standing as a person was in my business law textbook 26 years ago.

    Stalwart Sentinel wrote, "Following conservative logic then I, as a Mormon, ought to be able to directly ask prospective employees in a job interview whether they drink, smoke, or have had premarital sex." You are getting a little of topic here. The question is if the government can force these two families to pay for birth control measures that they find morally repugnant.

    This is not a case of someone not wanting to pay for any kind of birth control measure. While health plans cover at least some drugs from each theraputic class. Very few cover all drugs in each theraputic class. Sometimes they cover only one. Both families already cover 75% of all approved birth control drugs in the United States in the health plans that they provide for their employees. They just don't want to pay for four products that they find repugnant.

  • JenicaJessen Riverton, UT
    March 27, 2014 1:51 p.m.

    JoeBlow, that's a strawman. The question is not whether a religious exemption would grant you the right to disobey any law you want. It is not even whether or not private businesses can discriminate against those that they consider sinners. The question is whether or not the family that owns a company can be forced to FUND those "sins".

    Hobby Lobby is not forbidding their employees to use birth control, abortifacient or not. It is not trying to fire those that use birth control, no matter what form that birth control takes. It is simply refusing to provide funding for some forms. Their employees are free to do whatever they want without retribution.

    To claim that a ruling in their favor would allow a Catholic employer to fire divorcees is hyperbolic and a misunderstanding. A more accurate analogy would be to say that ruling in their favor means that a Catholic employer could not be forced to provide a divorce lawyer for an employee. The issue isn't whether a company made up of LDS people can avoid hiring a drinker-- it's whether they can be forced to give him booze.

  • Stalwart Sentinel San Jose, CA
    March 27, 2014 4:29 p.m.

    J in AZ - I appreciate the thought but your response is not accurate. While I understand that in order for this to make sense from your side of things, one must claim that a "family" is being forced to do something but that is factually incorrect. The family is not the company and vice versa. Put simply, the actual legal issue of the case makes zero mention of any family; rather it pits the personal exercise of religion against the govt's compelling interest to enforce the ACA. The disconnect is that a for profit company does not have a right to exercise a religion (distinguishing for profit from non-profit religious-based institutions which are exempt from this ACA mandate). If Hobby Lobby wants to hide behind the owner's personal moral convictions, they can become a non-profit and be done with it. However, that is unlikely b/c they are designed as a for profit enterprise, therefore they must abide by the same laws as every other for profit endeavor.

    JenicaJensen - Your argument is also mistaken. The family that owns a company has no legal right to enforce its moral principles on the employees of said company.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    March 27, 2014 7:26 p.m.

    @Stalwart Sentinel

    JenicaJensen is right on point.

    The imaginary problems if they support true religious freedom, are just that imaginary.

    The short answer is NO. none if those imaginary hypothetical situations would happen.

    None of these were ever problems in the past before progressive twisted the interpretation of the first amendment and will not be after.

    Liberty and freedom for a moral people is the answer.

    More big government control and more enslaved constrained moral-less people is not.

  • A Quaker Brooklyn, NY
    March 27, 2014 9:33 p.m.

    How do you balance the religious freedom of the company's owner versus the religious and personal freedom of his 13000 employees? Are they not entitled to access the same federally-guaranteed employee benefits as employees of other companies do? Are they not entitled to practice their own religion's doctrine on reproductive matters?

    Allowing Hobby Lobby to essentially veto healthcare benefits for women who do not share the owner's viewpoint is imposing a fine on them of several hundred dollars a year, the cost of buying hormonal contraceptives outside their health plan. How is that fair?

    What's his viewpoint on single women who get pregnant? Is he going to only allow obstetric service coverage for married women next?

    This is perilous territory. I don't see how you can open this "religious freedom" exception, when it essentially strips that freedom from the much more numerous employees, leaving them subject to punitive penalties imposed by their employer.

  • J in AZ San Tan Valley, AZ
    March 27, 2014 9:37 p.m.

    Stalwart Sentinel - In your response, I'm afraid that your logic is flawed in two places. First the compelling government interest argument doesn't work because first, the suit is not an attempt to deny access to an entire class of therapeutic agents or to seek to be excused from compliance with the ACA employer mandate. No other therapeutic class of drugs is required to have all product covered by plans, only birth control drugs are being given this privileged status. The plaintiffs are perfectly willing to fund 16 different products, 75% of all approved products, from the birth control therapeutic class. In fact, their pre-ACA health plans already fund those drugs. They are suing for the right to not be forced to include two drugs and two medical devices that they find to be morally objectionable based on the FDA approved labeling and safety literature. Should the plaintiffs prevail, no employee will be denied access to a wide range of safe and effective contraceptive drugs.

    The second flaw coming in the next post.

  • Copy Cat Murray, UT
    March 27, 2014 10:41 p.m.

    The real issue is not about discrimination in hiring, but I will play along with Joe for a bit.

    If a person has asthma which is triggered by cigarette smoke, can they refuse to hire someone because they smell like smoke?

    Can a health care facility refuse to hire people who smell like smoke, based on the bad image it gives their business?

    These are reasons someone might not hire someone who smells like smoke, that have nothing to do with religion.

    But there are those in Utah who would claim that making these decisions is based solely on religion.

    It just ain't so Joe.

    People choose who they hire based on the prospective employees behavior all the time. Otherwise they would just put resume's in a hat and pick one. That is not the recipe for a successful business.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    March 27, 2014 11:04 p.m.

    @Roland Kayser:
    "If Hobby Lobby wins, corporations will quickly discover that they have all kinds of religious objections to many of our laws."

    Yes. I agree. But, the Democrats have opened a Pandora's Box with intrusive regulations. At one time Sibelius said that she was not aware that there would be problems with contraception mandates in the ACA. I am not Catholic, and it was not a surprise to me. The people running the government need to be more aware (and more tolerant) of different cultural traditions in the US (and in the world). Given all the lip-service to diversity it is kind of surprising.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    March 27, 2014 11:07 p.m.

    @Quaker:

    As I understand, Quakers are pacifists and if there was a war and there was a draft, a lot of the people arguing on behalf of Hobby Lobby's case and their freedom of religion would support your right to be a conscientious objector, even if they will be drafted to fill the place that you are not filling.

    You should do the same for them.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    March 28, 2014 6:53 a.m.

    All these "parades of horribles" being put forward by many of these posters are not valid. This is a very narrow case that involves only the issues of birth control and abortifacients with respect to religious conscience. It doesn't involve any other issues.

    Freedom of Religion is the FIRST and most important right that is presented in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights. There is a reason for that. The Founding fathers considered it to be the first and most important of all human rights.

    Let's not get carried away with this. All these other theoretical issues don't apply.

  • A Quaker Brooklyn, NY
    March 28, 2014 8:04 a.m.

    @Tekakaromatagi: What you may not understand is the reason that Quakers are pacifists. It stems from our belief that all people are created equal, that we're all imbued with "that of God," or if you prefer, an internal Light. For that reason, we believe that to attack other people, you are attacking God.

    As far as pacifism goes, we believe it's not only immoral to wage violence against someone, but that paying others to do so is just as immoral. As such, we object to paying taxes that are used to support military assets. Some Quakers have protested by going to jail, but the majority feel that they can do more good by not being in jail, so we pay our taxes under protest.

    Looking at this "religious conscience" case before SCOTUS now, I can't speak for other Quakers, but to me it looks like the business owners are looking to be "more equal" than their employees, arguing their religious consciences should be elevated to the repression of others. I cannot support that. That is an affront to the principle of equality.

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    March 28, 2014 8:31 a.m.

    To all of you who are using the "slippery slope" argument, that argument could be made with just about any law passed in America. It is a weak argument, especially if that is all you have.

  • The Scientist Provo, UT
    March 28, 2014 9:08 a.m.

    Religious organizations be warned: you enforce the principle of "religious freedom" for corporations here at your own peril.

    All the foregoing "slippery slope" arguments are, if not logically valid, rhetorically suggestive, and should not be ignored. But beyond those arguments there is the simple question of how the legitimacy of religious claims can be established.

    Specifically, Hobby Lobby owners claim that their religion cannot support "abortifacients', and they have personally interpreted what that entails. But no official Church officers have made official statements supporting HL owners' personal interpretations about what are and what are not "abortifacients". Hobby Lobby owners are NOT official, ordained, authorities of the Church in which they claim membership.

    Imagine an LDS business owner refusing to pay for cremation benefits, despite the fact that the LDS Church does NOT have an official stand against cremation. Who is authorized to declare what is and what is not Church doctrine and policy?

    Legally and ultimately, individuals who are not ecclesiastical authorities will not be allowed to interpret religious doctrine/positions. They will be required to back up their religious claims with official doctrines. This will lead to more Pharisaic legalism in religion than there already is.

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    March 28, 2014 10:45 a.m.

    Scientist

    The way you phrased your comment made it sound as if the owners of Hobby Lobby were in some way associated with the LDS Church. I looked them up and they are Christian and contribute to Oral Roberts University and other Christian organizations. So, they might not even have an official church organization or leadership like the LDS Church does. And, even if LDS, some owner of a private business, for instance, could or could not serve alcohol if they wanted to. It would make no difference if they were LDS. Example, Marriott serves coffee and alcohol at the hotels. But if they didn't, and based it on religion, do you think some law should be passed to force them to serve it?

    Not sure what your point was. And do you really want to hear all the slippery slope arguments against a law you want? That can be a wide field.

  • JenicaJessen Riverton, UT
    March 28, 2014 11:04 a.m.

    Stalwart Sentinel: "Your argument is also mistaken. The family that owns a company has no legal right to enforce its moral principles on the employees of said company."

    I think you must have misread my post. That's exactly what I was saying. Hobby Lobby would "enforce its moral principles" if they told employees that they were NOT allowed to use birth control. Hobbby Lobby has done nothing of the kind. They have not said that employees are forbidden to use birth control. They are not forcing employees to live any set of "moral principles" when it comes to birth control. A Hobby Lobby employee can use any form of birth control they want-- the question is whether or not their employer should be forced to pay for it. (And as has already been pointed out, of the twenty required birth control products, Hobby Lobby is perfectly willing to fund sixteen.)

    The Scientist: So in order to believe that, say, the death penalty or war or abortion is wrong, I have to have a church leader tell me so? Do I automatically forfeit any right to think for myself or develop my own moral code by joining a religion?

  • factsplease SLO, CA
    March 28, 2014 11:05 a.m.

    Employers under the ACA are not required to pay any portion of contraceptives, nor administer a plan which provides access to contraceptives if they have religious objections.

    Additionally the ACA states:

    Health Plans Cannot Be Required to Cover Abortion.
    No Federal Funds for Abortion Coverage or Abortion Care.
    No Preemption of State or Federal Laws Regarding Abortion.
    Conscience Protections for Providers and Facilities.

    It could easily be argued that Hobby Lobby will contribute to MORE unplanned pregnancies and therefore, MORE abortions by restricting access to contraceptives.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    March 28, 2014 1:56 p.m.

    No one is trying to tell the owners of Hobby Lobby that they can't live their religion. The problem is Hobby Lobby owners will if they are allowed to, put their own religious restrictions on their employees.

    Jews and Moslems do the same thing, because of their religion, they circumcise their children while they are still too young to object. All if this is wrong.

  • JenicaJessen Riverton, UT
    March 28, 2014 3:10 p.m.

    If a kosher deli refuses to sell bacon, are they "oppressing" pork eaters? Are they "putting religious restrictions" on their customers and employees by not handing out free pig meat to them?

    I'm sorry, I just don't see how refusing to personally provide some contraceptives automatically equals forbidding the use of contraceptives. I can see the link between totally forbidding any use of contraceptives ever and promoting religious beliefs, and I can even see the link between enforcing religious beliefs in a workplace and oppression. But "not funding X" is not even close to the same as "forbidding X". If that's the rationale, than pretty much everything the government doesn't fund is illegal.

  • anotherview SLO, CA
    March 28, 2014 4:15 p.m.

    The Catholic Health Assoc is satisfied with the accommodations provided in the ACA.

    Apparently religious institutions are on both sides of the debate.

    How is Hobby Lobby "providing" contraceptives if they aren't required to pay any portion of or administer the healthplan? Couldn't the same argument apply that just by providing a paycheck to a young woman who has had an abortion Hobby Lobby is facilitating the abortion?

    Furthermore,
    If Hobby Lobby wants an "out" they have the option of not providing health insurance at all and instead, pay the "tax."

    To argue that one has no choice in the matter is simply not true.

    How is it that we have male dominated courts and legislators deciding what women's choices ought to be?

  • mark Salt Lake City, UT
    March 31, 2014 12:52 a.m.

    Jenica, this has nothing to do with forcing, or not forcing, employees to do something, rather, the issue is if a business can refuse to obey the law based on the religious believes of its owners.

    And there is indeed a slippery slope here, or more precisely a steep cliff. If the owners of hobby lobby can receive an exemption to the law based on there religious believes then ANYBODY can. If this is not true, then why the owners of hobby lobby? Why only them and no one else? Of course religious exemption would have to apply to everyone, if not, why only contraceptives? Why not other religious believes? The government MUST treat everyone's religious believes equally, it cannot place one persons religious believes above another's.

    Therefore, Quaker's desire to not pay taxes that go to military expenditures would HAVE to be honored.

    You are right, though, when you ask why should an individual have to rely on ecclesiastical leadership to determine their believes. They don't. The government cannot be in a position to determine WHICH religious believes are valid, or why.

    Indeed, all men would be a law unto themselves.

  • RFLASH Salt Lake City, UT
    April 3, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    It is not right to consider a corporation as an individual! Corporations are formed to take advantage of benefits received. Nobody forced them into becoming a corporation, but they did and they should obey the laws that apply! People set aside their personal beliefs every day in order to do business! Can you imagine if you had a list of all your religious ideas, and before doing business with others, they all had to comply! How well would you do? If Hobby Lobby followed their religion, like they say that they do, they would not do business with anyone that uses contraceptives and has sex outside of marriage. Am I right? Maybe it is a little bit easier to discriminate against employees!
    Live and let live! I think people are getting sick of all the tea party, self righteous. holier than thou attitudes! There are many out there passing judgment on others and if the truth were known, they are not that good of a person themselves! Watch out for those who brag about how good they are while they make sure to point out the unacceptables! I wouldn't work for Hobby Lobby! I wouldn't trust them!