It’s said, “tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good”. I think that this saying fits Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling perfectly.
Some call it a victory for religious freedom, but I’m not sure there are any real winners except for perhaps Hobby Lobby, and for them the ruling may still prove to be a pyrrhic victory. The owners of Hobby Lobby have called the country’s attention to their firm in a manner that will probably hurt their business more than it will help it. I’ll bet their competitors are pleased. It’s not like conservatives are suddenly going to buy a lot more hobby supplies to support them, but if only 10% of their regular customers boycott their stores, that’s 10% less revenue and a far greater percentage in loss of profits because they still have to pay the same fixed costs regardless of how much they sell.
By the way, if I were a conservative battling Obama Care, I don’t think I would want Hobby Lobby carrying my banner and leading the charge. Apparently this is not the first time Hobby Lobby has allowed their religious fervor to overcome good business sense. A friend in New Jersey told me that Hobby Lobby recently opened a new store in near her home in a town where a large percentage of the population is Jewish. During their first holiday season at their new location the new Hobby Lobby store had plenty of Christmas decorations to sell, but none for the Jewish holidays. When they asked why, customers were told that Hobby Lobby is a Christian owned business and therefore they don’t carry Jewish decorations. Now most of the Jewish residents and some of their Christian friends won’t do business with the store, but apparently Hobby Lobby doesn’t care. The corporation is not exactly a model of American fairness and tolerance for the views and beliefs of others.
Of course the most important affect of the ruling is that makes it more difficult for women to access the full range of options available for managing their reproductive systems. The ruling partially negates the section of the Affordable Health Care Act which requires companies employing over 50 employees to provide medical insurance coverage for their employees. Hobby Lobby sued so that they would not be forced to cover four forms of contraceptives and IUD’s which the owners of the firm consider to be equivalent to abortion – though most medical professionals disagree. The ruling applies only to closely held corporations which the IRS defines as a corporation where five or fewer people own 50% or more of the stock. However, closely held firms make up over 90% of all American business and employ about 52% of the American work force. While smaller percentages these firms employ over fifty employees, tens of millions of women could theoretically be affected by the ruling. This can’t be considered a victory for women or the men who support them.
The ruling relies in part on the new concept that a closely held corporation is not only a person, but is also a person capable of having religious beliefs. The convention that a corporation, like a person, can enter into contracts, must pay taxes, can sue or be sued, etc. has been part of our legal system for a long time. However, the concept that it can adopt the religious beliefs of its owners has never been set forth before. It is a concept which is alien to a large percentage of Americans who are trying to figure out how corporations can have religious beliefs. (Will they be allowed marry and have sex next?) This can’t be considered a victory for Americans’ faith in our judicial system.
The ruling also opens up the flood gates to other similar lawsuits. It would not be a stretch for Catholic owners to try to use this ruling to deny insurance payment for all contraceptives. At the other end of the spectrum we could have owners who believe only in faith healing trying to deny coverage for all medical procedures. The lower courts will be left to intemperate this Supreme Court’s ruling in cases across this entire spectrum and heaven knows how they will rule. Do we really want the courts deciding which of our religious beliefs have merit and which don’t? Again, this is not a victory for our legal system
Now liberals certainly aren’t happy with the ruling, but conservatives shouldn’t be happy either because it revs up the liberal base at time when it would be best to let sleeping dogs lie. It also revs up pro-choice women voters. Usually in off year elections the President’s party is at disadvantage, but the five conservative Justices have been behind several very controversial decisions including this one lately. Now, given that the could be an opening on the Supreme Court at any time, and given that the Senate must confirm all Supreme Court appointees, this ruling suddenly makes the battle for control of Senate all the more important to Democrats. The battle for the Senate is going to come down to just eight tossup races and contributions are going to very important deciding those eight elections. Due to another recent Supreme Court ruling, for a while the Republicans had the advantage of big money donations Now the Democrats can counter with millions of small contributions from ticked off and very motivated liberals. This ruling is god send for Democratic fundraisers and conservatives can’t be happy about that.
So no one should be happy with the Hobby Lobby decision. If it even creates major problems for conservatives, I’m having a tough time seeing how anyone comes out a winner.