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.
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.