As Hobby Lobby heads to the Supreme Court to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, don’t be duped by these five common misperceptions about the case:
The owners of Hobby Lobby are anti-contraception.
The owners of Hobby Lobby, the Green family, are evangelical Christians. They have no problem with preventative contraception and already cover sixteen of the twenty forms approved by the FDA. When public officials and Obama advisors like Valerie Jarrett say things like Hobby Lobby is, “an arts and crafts chain whose owners want to be able to take the option for birth control benefits away from their employees,” they are factually incorrect. The Green family objects only to, and therefore does not cover, the four forms of contraception whose FDA labels warn they can destroy an embryo and thereby cause an abortion. In other words, Hobby Lobby objects to paying for women’s abortions. They are by no means alone in that objection.
The owners of Hobby Lobby are asking for some sort of special treatment.
The CEO of Hobby Lobby, David Green, is tasked with making all sorts of moral decisions on behalf of his (privately-owned) company. So is every corporate CEO, for that matter. This is nothing new in the American corporate system; in fact, it’s something we’ve come to expect. When the CEO of Starbucks was challenged by a stockholder who supports traditional marriage for his (publicly-traded) company’s choice to support gay and lesbian causes, he replied, “It’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company.” John Mackey of Whole Foods allows a benefits scale based on employee health factors like BMI or smoking habits. And Larry Merlo, the CEO of CVS, recently announced that, despite potential billions in lost profits, his company will stop selling tobacco products because “it’s the right thing to do” and “inconsistent” with the company’s “purpose.”
The only time David Green’s religious values inform his business decisions relates to women’s reproduction.
Wrong again! David Green’s company explicitly states that it conducts its affairs according to “Biblical principles,” and so he does not want to subsidize life-ending drugs. But he has also gleaned some other gems from the Bible, like that whole thing about “honor the Sabbath” and “keep it holy.” “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work.” (See, Ten Commandments, for more information.) David Green closes every single one of his stores on Sunday, ensuring that each of his nearly 28,000 employees can earn a living while still taking a rest and spending quality time with family. And his Christian faith also compels him to give his employees a just wage. His full-time employees start at 90 percent above the federal minimum wage. There are other things, like the free walk-in health clinic for employees at the Oklahoma City headquarters, but you get the drift.
The Greens want to get between a woman and her doctor.
Or as one tweet put it, “Hobby Lobby’s suing for “the right” to declare themselves doctors.” We’ve already established that Hobby Lobby covers most forms of contraception, and the morning-after pill is now over the counter, so one can’t claim with any credibility that a woman needs her employer to have a drug-induced abortion. But beyond that, it’s actually the Obama administration that has dragged Hobby Lobby, and 300-plus other plaintiffs suing against the mandate, right into the middle of bedroom politics. If it truly feels that it is such a dire and compelling public concern to make sure no woman ever paid a co-pay for her Plan B, the government could easily avoid forcing employers into violating their consciences by expanding federal programs like Title X that already offer free contraception to women.
Hobby Lobby is asking for a departure from established federal law.
In 1993, the Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It was one of the most bipartisan pieces of legislation in American history, introduced into the House by Chuck Schumer, where it passed unanimously, sailed through the Senate with all but three yays, and was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. RFRA established that the federal government cannot burden religious liberty, even with a generally applicable law that applies to everyone, unless there is a compelling government interest (which must relate to Constitutional issues) and the law burdens religion in the least restrictive means possible. The HHS mandate fails RFRA entirely, and countless judges from both ends of the political spectrum have already agreed. The Constitution is oddly silent about things like Nuva Rings, and as we’ve just established, the government has a lot of other options that are a lot less restrictive on the religious rights of American businessmen and women when it comes to mass distribution of free contraception. As the Green’s lawyers at the Becket Fund have made clear, it is actually the Obama administration that is asking for a massive departure from established federal law, a departure that strikes at the heart of the First Amendment.
So don’t be duped when you hear activists from Planned Parenthood and friends trying to make David Green and Hobby Lobby public enemy number one. He’s just a guy who started a business from his garage, one that he runs according to moral principles like any other corporate CEO, a guy who is abiding by the law and treating the people for whom he is responsible with care and concern.
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