Religion, Sex, Money, Obamacare

November 27, 2013

– and Corporate Personhood! All wrapped up in one tidy case which the Supreme Court has agreed to hear. It’s gotten a fair amount of publicity by now – the famous Hobby Lobby case, in which a corporation with religious owners demands that its (their?) freedom of conscience should allow them to defy the ACA’s mandate to include contraceptive coverage in its (their?) employees’ insurance package.

I’d like to write about it at length but there are other things I have to get out of the way before the holiday, so just a few words: In my view, even if it can be argued that under Citizens United a corporation, being a person, can be said to have a conscience – for let us grant that the logical consequences of an absurd premise are likely to be equally absurd – I don’t accept that any employer’s religious freedom should allow them to infringe on the personal freedom of their employees. If you are required by law or contract to pay someone something, it is their conscience and not yours that should dictate how they spend it. You can’t object to your landlord’s spending the rent money you pay on a lifestyle you consider immoral; the health coverage you owe your workers should be treated the same way.

One of the reasons the Court agreed to hear this, by the way, seems to be a conflict of circuits; a companion case involving a Mennonite furnitare company has been taken up also, and in the two cases the Court of Appeals reached opposite decisions. Which reminds me of a thought I had the other day – if the employers win in this case, does that mean that if we ever return to compulsory military service, the Mennonites will be able to demand conscientious objector status for all their workers (whether they want it or not)???

Another recent court case, which my clergy friends are naturally concerned about, involves the constitutionality of the tax exemption allowed for their housing allowances. When I have time I will write something wrapping up all of these issues into an overall discussion of how to understand the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Stay tuned!

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