Hobby Lobby Case: ‘About Labor Rights And Religious Extremism, Not Birth Control’
This past Saturday, thousands across the U.S. pledged their support for the religious rights of corporations by taking to craft chain Hobby Lobby en masse.
In a show of solidarity with the $3.3 billion (revenues) company in its ongoing Supreme Court case, shoppers bought Easter crafts and wreath-making materials, posting photos of their spoils to a dedicated Facebook page along with prayers and well wishes.
“Made it out to Hobby Lobby Day to get my Duck Dynasty (go Phil!) jigsaw puzzle!” wrote one shopper, harking back to another recent headline-grabbing rift.
“We enjoyed showing our support and shopping at Hobby Lobby today!” wrote a second, attaching a photo of a decorative wooden cross she purchased.
Hobby Lobby Day was the brainchild of one-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, whopromoted a similar day-long celebration of fried chicken chain Chick-fil-A when it drew scrutiny forits owners’ opposition to gay marriage.
This time around, Huckabee had support from the political arm of conservative nonprofit the Family Research Council, led by Josh Duggar.
If Duggar’s name sounds familiar it’s because he appeared on television as one of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, part of a family that publicly eschews birth control. Now, he’s a face in Hobby Lobby’s fight against the federal birth control mandate, describing the case as an issue of “religious freedom.”
For supporters of Obamacare’s contraceptive provisions, however, the Hobby Lobby case is about neither religious liberty nor birth control but workers’ rights versus zealotry.
“Religious freedom is a bogus argument by those who want to use religion to discriminate,” said Jon O’Brien, president of pro-choice faith group Catholics for Choice, which took out a full page ad in the Washington Post last week asking: ‘What’s happening to the separation of church and state?’
“The idea that a corporation has a conscience is for many of us completely ridiculous. It’s granting power to business owners with extremist religious beliefs.”
O’Brien described the birth control methods being contested in the Hobby Lobby case as “the tip of a very large iceberg.”
“The idea that employers might be able to dictate what your insurance coverage can pay for today is terrifying,” he said. “Tomorrow it might be whether you can use IVF to conceive. Who knows what objections they may have? It’s a huge intrusion.”
For Service Employees International Union associate general counsel Nicole Berner, who sat in on last Tuesday’s Supreme Court arguments, contraceptives represent the start of a slippery slope that could result in discrimination.
“If an employer didn’t want to provide healthcare for a same-sex spouse, they could claim religious freedom,” Berner said, noting that Justice Sonia Sotomayor shared her concerns about possible religious objections to vaccines in court.
“Corporations, like individuals, could claim any law violates their freedom of expression,” she said. “There are religions that oppose unionization, like Seventh Day Adventists.”
Chitra Panjabi of the National Organization for Women sees a possible Hobby Lobby victory as a blow for women’s equality in the workplace.
“If people have to go outside their insurance plan to pay for birth control, that’s a healthcare issue, it’s an economic issue and it’s a workers’ rights issue,” said Panjabi, who spent last Tuesday on the Supreme Court steps with fellow women’s rights activists and their allies.
“Women are already paid less than men. Healthcare shouldn’t be a privilege for those who can afford it.”
Panjabi believes a Hobby Lobby win could have implications far beyond its impact on the Affordable Care Act. “This is about companies controlling what their employees can and cannot do,” she said.
For her part, Berner hopes the Supreme Court will decide that corporations can’t hold religious beliefs, thus aren’t entitled to religious liberty. She’s worried about the ramifications should the vote go the other way.
“There’s a threshold question of whether a corporation can assert religious beliefs,” she said. “These are for-profit corporations that were not incorporated to further a religious agenda. What is daunting is, where does it stop?”
This piece was originally published by Forbes.