Hobby Lobby's fight against birth control coverage could be the ruination of everyone. The Oklahoma City-based family-owned chain has taken their religious right to withhold contraception coverage from their female employees all the way to the Supreme Court, who will hear their lawyers arguments on Tuesday. The only problem is, if Hobby Lobby wins, their employees won't be the only losers.
Hobby Lobby's position essentially asserts that religious freedom should be held higher than federal programs like the Affordable Care Act but it could extend to a re-hashing of, say, the end of segregation.
For example, in Arizona, a law suggesting the right to refuse service to LGBTQ customers based on religious freedom was recently rebuked, but Hobby Lobby's argument for religious freedom taken up by a non-religious for-profit company might re-open that door. In the simplest terms, a business would just have to point to Hobby Lobby's Supreme Court victory, maybe do a praise dance, claim religious freedom and then, you know, kick out all of the people they feel God told them not to hang out with. Legal precedents are tricky that way.
Ironically, Hobby Lobby sounds like a great place to work if you don’t have ovaries, or have any health insurance dependents with ovaries, writes the AP.
Hobby Lobby's base pay for full-time employees is almost twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. They are offered health insurance, dental coverage and a retirement savings plan. Hobby Lobby stores close most nights at 8 p.m., which the company says is aimed at allowing employees to spend more time with their families.
That said, unlike the Catholic churches who’ve made similar arguments around refusing contraception coverage for their employees, Hobby Lobby isn't a church. Their claim of religious freedom might be as American as apple pie — religious freedom and the right to be uptight is why America was founded, after all — but a win for the middle American company could usher in a lot of unintended foolishness.
One key issue before the justices is whether profit-making corporations may assert religious beliefs under the 1993 religious freedom law or the First Amendment provision guaranteeing Americans the right to believe and worship as they choose. The court could skirt that issue by finding that the individuals who own the businesses have the right to object.
And since Hobby Lobby isn't an actual religious institution, if they win their Supreme Court case, then any company could follow their lead and side-step the fees — up to $1.3 million a day for non-compliance or $26 million a year, reports the New York Times, if they dropped employee insurance coverage all together — associated with refusing to follow the Affordable Care Act. Some disagree that the store's argument will lead America down the path of civil rights and women's health destruction, but it's hard to argue that a win for Hobby Lobby wouldn't come at the cost of something necessary. Is religious freedom worth revisiting our not-so-distant past where American laws were on the wrong side of history?
Image via AP.