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.