Those with even the most cursory familiarity with the United States Constitution know that the first right in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is that of religious freedom. The founders made it abundantly clear that the state had no business telling people how–or how not–to worship, nor to impose any one idea of what religion is onto the masses. Religion is the most personal of personal freedoms, between the individual and whatever god he believes in.
Well, times change and apparently the U.S. Supreme Court no longer thinks that first-among-firsts of rights is so special. The Court recently agreed to hear the case of the Christian company “The Hobby Lobby” in its challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that the company pay for insurance that covers contraception for women, a practice that goes against the core beliefs of the church. A lower court has already ruled in favor of the company, and one can’t help but think the Supreme Court is looking for a chance to assert its authority with an overturn.
Note that the company is not trying to deny their employees access to contraception, as detractors claim. Employees are free to do whatever they want with their own time and their own money. The Hobby Lobby simply doesn’t want to be forced to pay for something it deems immoral, an eminently reasonable request.
If the Court says no, not only will you have to buy insurance against your will, you have to financially endorse things that are abhorrent to your faith. The argument apparently goes that contraception is a health issue, and so must be covered along with other health issues. Just as a religion that endorses infanticide wouldn’t be allowed to kill babies (oh wait, they are. They’re called “liberals,”) religious freedom doesn’t give Hobby Lobby the right to deny important health care to its employees.
This is, in a word, nonsense. Contraception is a health issue in the same way parachutes are a health issue. If you jump out of a plane, you’d better have a parachute; if you have sex, it’s a good idea to have contraception. But health insurance companies have no mandate to cover parachutes, because no one is being forced to jump out of planes. It is a choice, and if you make that choice, it is your responsibility to buy your own parachute. Sex is equally a choice, albeit one made by a lot more people. If you make that choice, acquiring protection is your responsibility, not your employer’s.
It seems obvious, but I guess I have to point it out anyway. If you are a woman who feels that insurance coverage for contraception is so vital to your well-being that you cannot live without it, then don’t work for Hobby Lobby! Every employer will have ways of doing business, some of which you might not agree with. When you accept a job offer, you are accepting at least some of the employer’s terms. Maybe you wish you were paid more and you don’t like the fluorescent lights in the building, but it is not the government’s job to force your employer to give those things to you.
Some commentators have attempted to make the ridiculous argument that Hobby Lobby and other organizations like it are trying to impose their religion on the rest of us. This is as absurd as saying that Starbucks is imposing expensive coffee on the rest of us. Private businesses are discretionary institutions. They cannot force you to work for them, neither can they force you to buy their products. Hence, they cannot “impose” anything on anyone. It is in this respect that the private sector differs from government, which can impose its will on people at the barrel of a gun.
If the government can require Catholics to pay for birth control, it can also require Mormons to pay for alcohol, Jews to pay for pork chops and Muslims to pay for cartoons featuring Mohammed. In fact, there’s no reason it couldn’t force atheists to pay for prayer vigils if we believe them to be an effective medical treatment, since we’re going to disregard the First Amendment in its entirety. The Court’s ruling, along with the law it endorses, is a blatant assault on religious freedom and on the Constitution itself, and it is one that should not be tolerated in a free society.