Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a good ruling upholding Americans’ religious liberties.
As we have written before, the federal Department of Health and Human Services promulgated rules under Obamacare requiring businesses to pay for sterilization, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs1. The problem is many Americans–and American business owners–have strong, religious objections to paying for these services.
The issue has never been whether or not an employer can bar an employee from using contraceptives or abortion-inducing drugs, but whether or not the federal government can force an employer to pay for those drugs. For instance, Hobby Lobby–one of the plaintiffs in today’s ruling–does not, to our knowledge, fire employees for using contraceptives or abortifacients; the owners simply do not want to be required to pay for these drugs, because doing so violates their deeply-held religious convictions.
The Supreme Court ruled, today, that Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, Mardel, and other “closely held, for-profit corporations” can and do have religious liberties under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This ruling makes sense for the following reasons:
- Corporations are human entities. They are founded by, led by, employ, and serve people. You cannot divorce a corporation from the people who run it. To say individual people have constitutional liberties, but corporations–where people gather and act together–do not simply does not make sense. The U.S. Supreme Court wrote, today, “the purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporation, including shareholders, officers, and employees.” We could not agree more.
- Corporations enjoy other constitutional liberties. For-profit newspapers enjoy freedom of the press; for-profit radio stations enjoy free speech; corporate offices cannot be searched without a warrant. Why should corporations enjoy other constitutional liberties, but not religious liberty? What makes the First Amendment right of free exercise of religion less important than the freedom to speak or assemble?
You cannot say Chris Hayes has freedom of the press, but MSNBC does not; you cannot say Rush Limbaugh has freedom of speech, but the radio station that broadcasts him does not; and you cannot say Hobby Lobby’s owners have religious freedom, but Hobby Lobby does not. The people, the corporation, and the Constitution simply are not that easily separated.
1 Note: Many people claim the HHS mandate does not include abortion-inducing drugs. The truth is the mandate includes so-called “emergency contraception,” which leading experts say can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb, thus constituting an abortion in the minds of many.