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Corporations with Religion…?

March 30, 2014

I would like some consensus of this topic: who thinks it is morally defensible for Hobby Lobby and others to declare religious rights, therefore permitted to be non-compliant with parts of the Affordable Care Act?  Why do you, the respondent, feel that way?  It is a simple question, but it is anything but a simple answer, isn’t it?

I’ll be honest and forthcoming with my opinion.  I am in favor of Hobby Lobby and others having the right to reserve services, even those required by federal or state law, on the basis of religion provided there are reasonable limits for corporations.  For example, let Hobby Lobby refuse to provide for contraceptives if it offends the leadership, but the exception should not extend to refusing treatment for life-threatening injury or illness (including abortion if it threatens the life of the mother and/or the child, I say).  I accept they are hypocrites in practice notwithstanding their Christian proclamations, and I know delineating the limits of religious exceptions for companies promises to be quite difficult if the precedent is so set.

I haven’t sorted it all out how it is defensible (it may not be, legally or morally), but I am mulling it over.  The short version is I am inclined to side with the Constitution’s First Article as applied this way over a federal government deciding how religion can be practiced by its entities subject to its statute laws.  The Affordable Care Act (a statute law) threatens to take legal precedence over the Constitution, the very source of its legitimacy.  Allowing this only detracts from the First Article of the Bill of Rights.

It’s bad enough the fear of offending minorities has already stricken all practice of faith in public from view, making a faithless society.  Argue that all you like, but it’s a simple truth.  If there is no religion is permitted within government, dependable morality isn’t permitted either.  Freedom of religion is meant to prevent an official state religion, not forbid any religion being practiced by the majority of constituents in a given area.  There’s no legal reason one can’t put up the Ten Commandments in the courthouse- or a stone monument to the Qur’an, for that matter, if the majority of the local population is Islamic.  I don’t care what argument is made against a company having the capacity for religious rights as much as I care about the fact denying this very concept presupposes a government has the legal and moral right to decide when religion is permitted in a public setting.  This is a fundamentally dangerous proposition for a republic.

I could be wrong about this, and I admit that.  The logic of my position is not yet fully developed.  But say, for argument’s sake, the government has the right to mandate to companies they must obey all federal laws regardless of religious objection.  Does it stop with corporations?  Would it not eventually extend to small businesses (those supporting churches or religious groups, possibly), or individuals in a public or commercial setting?  Where’s the line if freedom of religion is absolutely stricken from any one thing?  Could the Federal Communications Commission not eventually fine people for even discussing faith in public media?  It’s not like they are far off now, and it’s the same Article granting religious expression as freedom of speech.

 

As for solutions for this argument, there are a few.

1.  The first is the simplest and most obvious from a basic reading of the Constitution: repeal the mandate inherent in the ACA.  I don’t deny parts of it are great, or that the Republican party is grandstanding by their pretending to repeal the ACA in toto.  But the mandate is complete bollix.  At no point does the Constitution enumerate the right of the federal government to impose health insurance on the electorate.  Anything not enumerated is forbidden by the federal government, as per Article X of the Bill of Rights.  The Supreme Court is karking stupid for permitting this law to continue existing by virtue of this article alone, the tax penalty notwithstanding… not a punishment, my two-faced Democrat.  If repealing the law in full, or in part, was accomplished the issue of permitting or prohibiting religious exception to Obamacare would be moot.  You may be able to tell this is the solution I endorse.

2.  Those companies and other commercial ventures under United States federal law are denied the exception based on religious grounds.  This means they are legally required to provide any service or insurance program the ACA demands, or in keeping with judicial oversight of the Supreme Court and precedent it sets, any following statute law regardless of intent.  This imposition should be restricted to certain for-profit companies.  Just for an example, let’s say all companies with more than 15 employees and/or with interests in more than one state would be required to comply, as well as any in U. S. areas not in proper states (outside territories, protectorates, et cetera).  Anyone else should be exempt from the ACA if only because enforcement would be ridiculously difficult.  Even if they have 15 or more employees or cross state lines, however, no non-profit corporation or expressly religious organization should ever be required to uphold tenets of law in contravention of their beliefs.  This is the most practical answer the Supreme Court can give if it doesn’t do its job properly and strike down Obamacare.

It would be a tax code nightmare, though, and there is no guarantee the federal government can curtail the potential power this would bestow.  The executive branch is not known for its self-restraint.  Be warned, also, this solution is likely to produce the eventual religious repression of the entire country.  If all companies and public figures, like businesses operating in public and ostensibly controlling its clientele there, are required to uphold even inflammatory law any religious setting could be construed as seditious gathering sites.  It’s only a warrant away from calling churches “seditious” and disregarding other Articles in the Bill of Rights, in this case.  If you think that’s so far-fetched, ask the Branch Davidians what happened in Waco, Texas.

3.  Permit claimants to have restricted religious exceptions to federal or state laws as necessary, so long as they fit within the corresponding tax brackets and limits of entities involved.  If an employee of Hobby Lobby wants contraceptives and is denied through the company, there should be a federal program working with the company to augment the policy.  Let the Department of Health and Human Services pay for whatever the objecting company doesn’t.  Just enforce the ACA in terms of transfusions and the like because the life of a person is in jeopardy in such instances.  Then the corporation with the objection has no reason to object and the law is served, except where lives are lost if action is not taken.  There is no precedent I have heard of saying companies can stand by and allow their employees to suffer or die from lack of medical treatment, quickly or slowly, simply because they don’t condone the sociocultural views of the employee.

Honestly, I don’t understand why this solution is so difficult to come up with.  If the ACA demands such things be provided and the corporation has rights to deny them, the HHS is obligated to pick up the slack.  It is the appropriate federal agency to be responsible, as the imposition of law comes from the federal government.  The HHS should then be legally required to provide payment for non-life threatening health concerns like contraceptives.  Any companies excluded from religious exception (places with 15 or fewer employees, religious organizations, etc.) would not be included in such augmented policies because the legal entities themselves are not required to adhere to the ACA in this regard anyway, provided the Supreme Court rules this way.

 

Personally, I think if an unborn child is a medical danger to the mother, it shouldn’t matter if she is a full-time salary worker for the Pro-Life Council or a full-timer at McDonald’s.  The life is what matters.  Not catering to one’s lifestyle simply because one wants to live that way, when the employer does not encourage it, does not generally carry an inherent and unavoidable risk to the employee.  As such, the employee should not be entitled to what is, biologically speaking, unnecessary expenditure of resources through a health insurance policy.  The line is blurred sometimes, though, like when it comes to certain physical relationships and prevention of STDs, for example.  I can’t venture a solution to that except to say certain employees are not suited for self-righteous employers in the first place, and the situation should be avoided altogether.  For most circumstances, in this legal debate, contraceptives are not medically required for safety of the individual.  The company should not be forced provide them.

That said, however, no company or government should have the authority to tell you, as a person with the right for self-determination, when you should suffer unnecessarily or die simply because it disagrees with you.  So Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to accommodate people it considers to be engaging in unrighteous activities, or preventing births after marriage.  The denial of contraceptives does not threaten lives in most cases.  Refusing to provide vital transfusions, medically necessary abortions, or the like- that, I would say, cannot be allowed regardless of a company’s moral blustering.

 

This is as best as I can describe my thoughts on this.  Please, reply with your thoughts.  Call me on points I am wrong about or conclusions I have made without adequate reasoning.  I want to be sure my opinion is as fair as possible.

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