WHAT OTHERS SAY: Hobby Lobby should not impose religious beliefs on its employees

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 | 2:33 p.m. CDT

It is hard to imagine anyone, from conservative to liberal, who would want their employer's religious beliefs imposed on their workforce or insurance coverage.

Religious freedom is a personal freedom, not an employer choice.

For that reason, the U.S. Supreme Court should reject Hobby Lobby's claim that providing employees with certain contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act violates the company's religious liberty.

It doesn't. A firm run by executives with deep religious convictions is not the same as a church or religious nonprofit organization.

The owners of Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby and Pennsylvania-based Conestoga Wood Specialties are challenging the health care act's requirement that their firms offer insurance covering drugs and devices that they contend end human life after conception.

While the firms' owners don't oppose all contraceptives, they say covering such drugs and devices forces them to violate their religious beliefs against taking a human life.

The deep-seated personal convictions of Hobby Lobby's executives and Conestoga's Mennonite owners are not in question. What's at issue is whether a private, profit-making business can dictate religious beliefs on employees, a point Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg zeroed in on during oral arguments in the case last month.

Sotomayor bluntly asked, "How does a corporation exercise religion?"

Kagan then said corporations might claim religious objections to laws banning sexual discrimination, child labor, minimum wage and family leave.

They're right. Extending the religious rights of individuals to corporations that don't have an explicit religious mission would have unintended, far-reaching consequences on both secular and religious freedoms.

For example, what makes a craft chain like Hobby Lobby different from a tech company or a bank, whose bosses have deep religious convictions but otherwise operate as a secular firm?

Based on an owner's leanings, some companies might deny coverage for vaccinations and blood transfusions on religious grounds, holding employees hostage to management's personal beliefs and depriving employees of choice.

With all due respect, these decisions are best left up to each employee and their own conscience.

Two years ago, another dispute arose over Affordable Care Act mandates requiring the Catholic Church and other religious institutions to include birth control in health coverage plans.

This newspaper urged the federal government to find a way to acknowledge the unique religious missions of those institutions while making sure their employees have access to insurance coverage, even if by a third party.

Our guiding principle was fairness and balance, the same principle we think the court should apply in the Hobby Lobby case.

Individuals have long cited religious reasons for opposing all sorts of laws, and the courts have worked through cases very carefully to preserve balance.

Extending conscientious objector status to secular corporations would be a mistake. Religious freedom is an individual right, and the justices should affirm this principle.

Copyright Dallas Morning News. Distributed by the Associated Press.

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Michael Williams April 2, 2014 | 3:08 p.m.

"Sotomayor bluntly asked, "How does a corporation exercise religion?""

A corporation cannot exercise religion unless it is incorporated with religious purposes. Why? Because the corporation is owned by many diverse people who have chosen to invest in that stock. It is truly absurd to say IBM or GM can exercise religion. In this, Sotomayor is correct.

But Sotomayor asked a question inappropriate to this particular case.

She should have asked, ""How does a privately-held corporation exercise religion?"

Hobby Lobby is a privately-held corporation owned by very few people, apparently ALL of whom have very specific religious beliefs that DICTATE HOW THEY RUN THEIR COMPANY. Their religion sets their PERSONAL AND CORPORATE behavior and rules. I consider such a situation in the same way you might consider your own home....YOU set the rules, not me if I should visit you or be employed by you in your home. Because your home is YOUR home, I visit under your rules and I remain employed under your rules. If I don't, you kick me out. If I don't want to live by your rules, I leave. I believe I have NO right to happiness in your home under your rules.

Same thing for privately-held businesses like the Tribune or the former Cool Stuff. I do not believe the owner of a privately-held company should be forced to give up ANY rights, religious or otherwise, just because a door is opened for business with the public. If you have a business in your own home, and I enter to purchase or be employed, I believe I am expected to live by YOUR rules....not mine.

Same thing Hobby Lobby, the Trib, or the former Cool Stuff. Even my dentist has this right...and this dentist portrays all sorts of religious symbols in the office....symbols, pictures, and sayings that happen to be Christian.

But it's a whole 'nother thing for GM or IBM.

INO, I make a HUGE distinction between a company privately held versus one held by a diverse population of investors.

(Report Comment)
Joanne Schrader April 2, 2014 | 11:07 p.m.

Where are the Hobby Lobby employees in all this? I don't see them up in arms because they want abortifacients included in their health care plan. Did they file a friend of the court brief in this matter? I would think if they want this they would be out front with it. Planned Parenthood, NOW, and the ACLU would be loudly parading them around.

Gee, no one is complaining about Hobby Lobby imposing its religious beliefs on its employees by keeping the Sabbath. If the Greens cannot live by their religious convictions through their business, why isn't the government forcing them to open on Sunday?

The government should not dictate every aspect of our lives.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 3, 2014 | 5:52 a.m.

@ Joanne Schrader:

"The government should not dictate every aspect of our lives."

Correct, but unfortunately that tipping point has not only been reached but was reached sometime ago.

There were at least two 2oth century illustrations of what results when "too much government" occurs, and both ended badly.

Why some folks are hell bent to foster yet more of the same, possibly to "prove" some utopian concept, is well beyond my pay grade.

My reason for posting this is to ask whether David Rosman has accepted your invitation (your post, published in this newspaper) to visit with your group. One would think David would welcome the opportunity.

(Report Comment)

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