A fat, scowling, middle-aged male boss stamps out his will on young women, depriving them of the right to free birth control.

In a Planned Parenthood video on YouTube, he represents the bosses at “two for-profit corporations who want to deny their employees access to birth control.”

The text and video voiceover accurately quote some statistics on birth control use, then sum up the Hobby Lobby case now before the U.S. Supreme Court as a birth control ban nightmare for women who want to go to college, get jobs and plan their families.

In the same vein of exaggerated rhetoric, there’s also a vivid tweet from another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State. It also offers ogre-employer imagery with a trio of fictional bad bosses known for failure to have workers’ best interests at heart.

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What’s wrong with these pictures? The crude stereotyping doesn’t fit the facts.

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, 50, is not fat or scowling or at all interested in imposing his Christian faith on others. His company currently covers the 16 forms of birth control overwhelmingly used by most U.S. women for family planning to prevent conception. Those pills include the forms taken for medical problems such as endometriosis, a situation cited in the video. (Planned Parenthood did not return a request for comment.)

The only forms of contraception to which Hobby Lobby’s evangelical Christian owners object are those four that work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. They consider IUDs and emergency contraception medications to be abortifacient.

Yes, if Hobby Lobby wins, more business owners — including faithful young Catholic women entrepreneurs, in theory — could stand on their religion to exclude all forms of artificial birth control from insurance coverage.

Could. But maybe won’t. Indeed, it’s a stretch to assume many would do so. Most Americans, including most Catholics, support the mandate.

And even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby’s owners and the Mennonite family owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, this ruling may have no impact on publicly held for-profit corporations.

More than 60 percent of Americans want publicly held corporations to provide free contraceptive services with their health plans. While public opinion polling is not part of the justices’ deliberations, they were well aware of the potential chaos that could come of a wide open ruling for religious rights for all for-profit corporations.

Mark L. Movsesian, director of the Center for Law and Religion at the St. John’s University School of Law, writes:

There is something very odd in the notion that a large, publicly-traded corporation with thousands of institutional shareholders around the world—Exxon-Mobil, for example—has religious scruples that guide its conduct. (Most Exxon-Mobil shareholders, I think, would be deeply surprised.) Large, publicly-traded corporations exist principally to make profits for the shareholders, who remain passive with respect to the corporation’s day-to-day operations. Religion is the farthest thing from their minds.

Moreover, if such corporations could exercise a religion, chaos could result. How would we determine when a corporation has a belief, Justice Sotomayor asked. Which of the thousands of shareholders would be entitled to raise their religious scruples? Would the majority of shareholders—51%—decide the matter for everyone else? What about the minority shareholders who object?

However, Movsesian also saw in the court transcript a way out for the court on this, one suggested by Chief Justice Roberts.

As Movsesian phrased it: “The Court could hold that for-profit corporations qualify as persons for purposes of RFRA, but limit its holding to small, privately held firms like Hobby Lobby…”

But whatever the Supreme Court ruling, ogre bosses imposing their religion on others are not the issue, social media stereotyping notwithstanding.

 

45 Comments

  1. Nice piece.

    The sides involved have elevated to the status of the HL issue to pure politic now. So polite reserve and reason likely won’t be seen in the discussions that follow the legal resolution of the case.

  2. In one sentence you say they don’t want to impose their religious beliefs on their employees, and then you say they oppose certain forms of contraception for religious reasons. That’s kind of an important element there, and it’s contradicted within the same article.

  3. This has nothing to do with religion. This has to do with employers arbitrarily deciding people’s medical care. The idea that they wouldn’t do this after more than 50 companies filed similar suits is simply naive.

    This is class warfare.

    • The government has no business sticking their noses in our Healthcare choices of dictating to private companies what to or what not to offer in Health insurance options.

      • Yes, the government absolutely have business in determining a minimum level of healthcare. It’s the same idea as making scams illegal.

        Oh those poor poor private companies. I completely forgot about the real victims here: Corporations. Asking them to follow the law! How terrible! My heart weeps for them!

        • Both red and blue love a huge gov. Blue wants it for freebies and comfort. Red wants it for military.

          Both forgot it matters not unless you have economically strong and free individuals….which we don’t have now.

          • Blue and red is irrelevant. This is rich vs poor. Shareholders vs Workers. This is about whether an employer gets to determine private medical decisions for their employees. This is about employers declaring war on employees.

        • The very idea that an IUD or “Plan B” for the purposes of not allowing the implantation of a fertilized egg is “healthcare” and not a “lifestyle choice” is absurd. What medical condition are these things treating? They are interrupting an otherwise healthy and natural process in a woman’s body because she wishes to engage in sex without the consequence of pregnancy. Why PRECISELY should anyone but HER have to pay for her lifestyle choices?

          • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

            Considering how inexpensive birth control of almost any type is it is obvious this whole business about providing birth control is far more about bullying and coercing people to participate in (as a sort of ratification of) what many people consider to be evil and contemptuous of the value of human life.
            The real reason those like Planned Parenthood and others are so fanatical about pushing others to be involved in their anti-life world is that deep down they know their position is one of contempt for the value of all human life. The media never mentions it but many of the early founders of Planned Parenthood became early fans and promoters of Nazi eugenics policies.

          • So what you are telling me is you are unfamiliar with many very effective forms of female contraception. It’s costs, how many require medical implantation and/or prescription.

            More importantly you feel that the private activities of others are subject to the approval of yourself and others. Hobby Lobby is not an individual. It has no religious belief.

            The media also never mentions that the largest mainstream Christian Churches were ardent supporters of Nazis and many continue to support dictatorships to this day.

  4. Two problems:

    1) The fact that Hobby Lobby, et al. consider certain contraceptives abortificants does not make them so.

    2) Hobby Lobby gets the bulk of its merchandise from China, a country that had a “one child only” policy for decades that included forced abortion, so find their sudden conscience regarding the matter suspect. They were perfectly fine with it when they took their business to China. If this closely held companies’ religious beliefs were so important to them, they would have decided to source their merchandise elsewhere rather than give their tacit approval to the Chinese government’s policies by doing business with them.

    • Just because someone buys something made in another country doesn’t mean that person endorses all the public policies of that other country’s government. I assume you buy products made in China…do you support the “one child policy?” I assume you buy products made in the U.S. Do you support every policy the U.S. institutes?

  5. I live in Canada and the fact that this is an issue is madness. Talk about entitled baloney. If I want to buy birth control, I pay for it myself. Why the hell should my employer? In fact I think it’s madness that our stupid health care system pays for abortions and IVF treatments. Are you kidding me? Men and women should be responsible for their own reproductive health. Period. Full stop. BTW unless you flunked grade 7, most people should know that most females can’t get pregnant on every day of the month. Control your libidos you fools, we’re not animals. This entire issue is about f***ing and not having to be responsible for any of the consequences….disease, pregnancy, emotional or physical pain. We are raising a society of entitled children.

    • It’s laughable that you say “If I want to buy birth control, I’ll buy it myself.” Yes. That’s the whole point. What employers like Hobby Lobby want to say is that you can’t use your own compensation (health insurance earned through your employer) to purchase birth control. They should not be involved in such a decision.

      Employers should not be involving themselves in the medical decisions of their employees.

      • Benefits are not compensation, they are benefits. People can spend their own earnings however they like. Benefits are set by the company. If you don’t like them don’t work there.

          • They are added value. No requirement to provide benefits until the flawed Obamacare which will slowly be decimated as it should be.

          • Can employers determine how I spend my retirement now because that’s a “benefit” instead of a compensation?

            How arbitrary. You’re grasping at straws.

          • Speaking of grasping at straws. Your employer can determine what benefits and what funds if any are part of your pension or retirement. How you spend those earnings is up to you as well as how you spend your salary. You can buy all the birth control you want.

          • Of course, and any benefits they include have to meet the minimum requirements that the law requires.

            So I’m confused. Do you think employers should determine how I spend my retirement or not? Not how much or how fancy my retirement is, but how I actually spend my retirement. Or have you abandoned that ridiculous argument? Are benefits compensation now?

      • You are mistaken and uninformed. Employers have a right to be involved in what medical coverage they pay for for employees – framing the issue as employers interfering in employees’ medical decisions demonstrates that you are parroting party lines rather than engaging in informed, rational dialogue.

          • But don’t employers make all sorts of decisions about what is covered and what is not? My employer changes my health coverage every year in some ways, some minor, some major. There’s no set health insurance that I am entitled to by virtue of being employed by my employer. You write as if employers have no control over what they provide and what they don’t when, in fact, they do. Health insurance functions differently than a salary.

          • Yes, there is a set health insurance you are entitled to. There are basic requirements for health insurance to prevent the kind of snake oil salesman tactics that health insurance companies are widely known for. Obamacare makes one of these basic requirements of healthcare coverage for birth control.

            Employers are now asking for them, as employers, to be able to circumvent the law so that they can impose arbitrary restrictions on their employees.

        • Employers have no right to control how I spend my pay, nor do they have any right to control what I use my health benefits for. The fact that you dismiss this claim as “parroting party lines” shows that you have no logical counter point.

        • Rory, you know nothing about how insurance works. The government always has the power to set what are the minimum requirements of a given policy. Even self-insurers must abide by these constraints. Although policies may be customized to some degree, there are always mandated required coverages.

          An employer has no more say in what is involved in the minimum mandated requirements for health plans than you do in whether you can be required to carry liability coverage for your car.

  6. I think where Planned Parenthood is probably right, is that Hobby Lobby covered what they now won’t cover prior to being mandated to cover them. So it does seem to be odd, that it was the mandate that seems to be the problem.

    • Its pure politics. Simply another attempt for conservatives to fight ACA despite losing all of the previous fights.

      There is nothing about the “religious objection” argument which is in good faith. Corporate religion is nonsense.

  7. RFP Berkley Center

    For accessible scholarly debate on potential arguments from the bench in the upcoming Hobby Lobby decision, check out the Religious Freedom Project’s blog, Cornerstone: http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/rfp/blog/hobby-lobby-potential-arguments-from-the-bench-and-their-implications-for-religious-freedom

  8. Health insurance is EARNED COMPENSATION that the employer is required by law to provide. The religious freedom of the employer is not being infringed upon when the employee choses to use their EARNED COMPENSATION for a medical procedure or product that the employer has religious objections to. It is actually the employee who’s freedom of religion is being violated when an employer only allows the employee’s earne d compensation to be used in ways that are “ok” according to the employer’s religion. If I want to use my health insurance to get an abortion or get birth control, THAT IS MY RIGHT. I worked for that coverage, I earned those benefits. Stop trying to pretend that it’s the religious people in this country who are being oppressed. It’s the religious nut jobs like the ones running Hobby Lobby who are the real oppressors.

  9. “Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, 50, is not fat or scowling or at all interested in imposing his Christian faith on others.”

    That is complete fiction.

    The whole point of the lawsuit is that Mr. Green, acting on his own, in violation of all notions of corporate existence has decided his Christian faith is more important that labor laws and the interests of his employees.

    He deliberately bribed the public school board where his corporate HQ is located to push a “Bible study” course whose curriculum was flat out illegal and sectarian. Then he and the fellow board members actively conspired to keep the decisions out of the public eye.

    “His company currently covers the 16 forms of birth control overwhelmingly used by most U.S. women for family planning to prevent conception.”

    So that makes him a hypocrite. It is not a point in his favor. Mr. Green has no right whatsoever to be making any kind of decisions as to which forms of birth control cannot be used by his employees. Especially when they constitute minimum insurance requirements set by law. The government always has the right to set the “floor” for policy coverages for all insurance policies.

    Fact of the matter is Mr. Green’s religious beliefs have no bearing to the nature of the corporation he runs. It is not an excuse to avoid compliance with laws affecting all for profit corporations.

    Too often the issue is being dishonestly framed by treating Hobby Lobby like an individual. It isn’t. It is not even Steve Green. It is a legal gestalt fiction used for running a business and INSULATING Mr. Green from personal liabilities of that business. Mr. Green reaps the benefits of incorporation, he must also abide by its rules as well. A ruling for corporate religious belief will be phenomenally bad for everyone involved.

    Planned Parenthood was not exaggerating, just simplifying.

    • I would like to point out the if this author is to be believed it would help if she got the owners name and age right.
      The owner of Hobby Lobby is not Steven Green, His name is David Green and he is not 50 , he was born in 1941. He is 73

      So I’m not sure that anything his writer says is fact.

  10. It seems people in this country have such a sense of entitlement that they have lost sight of the fact that health insurance has always been a benefit. Companies would offer benefits to try to get better employees. You are not required to work for Hobby Lobby if you have issues iwth the type of insurnace they have offered. You do not even have to accept the insurance they offer. You can always go and get a private insurance policy. Why is any one person owed something. If you want to work for a company, you can look over what they are offering to compensate you and also the benefit package that company offers. If the offer does not meet what you feel like your time is worth, then you should look elsewher for a position. Simple! However, to ask a person to pay for something for you that is against their consience is really baffling. How does your rights overide their rights. You do not even have to be an employee there. You can go and work elsewhere.

    • The people with the greatest sense of entitlement are Fundamentalist Christians. They feel entitled to make decisions for everyone and to flaunt all laws which get in the way of such feelings.

      The level of dishonesty and plain ignorance employed by Hobby Lobby’s supporters here is enormous. There was nothing correct in what you said.

      Health insurance is a benefit as a form of compensation for work performed. It is not a gift of the employer. It is akin to their paychecks.

      An employer not entitled to change what are the legally mandated minimum coverages allowed for policies. Insurance policies have always been regulated by the government to set what are required minimum coverages. Providing health insurance does not give an employer the right to micromanage what care is received by their employees. That is a private and legally protected matter. (I take it you never heard of HIPAA)

      Although you are not required to work for Hobby Lobby, the company is required to obey all applicable laws. Especially ones affecting its workforce. “At will” employment does not give a company the right to treat is employees any way they want.

      ” Simple! However, to ask a person to pay for something for you that is against their consience is really baffling.”

      No. Baffling is how you can say a corporation has a conscience, let alone a religious belief. They are not an individual. Your framing of the issue in that manner is dishonest. Even more dishonest is framing health insurance as something they are paying for. Health insurance is something workers EARN with their labor. Its like saying Steve Green can tell his employees how to spend their paychecks.

  11. So, your argument is that companies COULD decide to exclude birth control, but “maybe won’t”. Wow, that’s comforting…And what about those kooky Christian denominations (and New Age groups) that are against all modern medicine? If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby’s fictitious “religious rights”, won’t they be allowed to eliminate nearly all medical procedures? No slippery slope fallacy here, because that really is how legal precedent works. I suspect a massive surge in converts to those denominations amongst the CEO population, and it is grotesquely naive to imagine otherwise. Steve Green’s backroom shenanigans in forcing Biblical literalism into Oklahoma classrooms should tell you that yes, he is very much a theocrat; the massive fine recently levied against his company in New York should tell you that their corporate practices are governed less by any religious morality than the bottom line. Finally, these forms of birth control which Hobby Lobby finds so horrible were covered under its old health plan, so this reeks of nothing more than opportunistic anti-Obama rhetoric. AU is 100% correct.

  12. What happens to Hobby Lobby hardly matters, but a decision in its favor could indeed cause chaos. Other employers have objections to immunizations, for example, and refusing to pay for those can result in a low level of protection favorable to the spread of disease. Truly small businesses could perhaps be granted individual exceptions to such requirements on the grounds of religious belief, but a company with 500 or so stores needs to follow the same rules as other businesses of a similar size.

    • If a person running a business wants to impute their religious belief to it, the laws already have a solution. Don’t form a legal business entity.

      Run it as a sole proprietorship. When you are taking personal responsibility for the company, it is you. Not a legal person separate and apart from you under the law. No need for new laws or federal rulings.

      Hobby Lobby wants to all the benefits of corporate law and none of the responsibilities. Typical Christian conservative. Responsibility and duty are for other people. “for thee and not for me”.

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