Aside

Birth Control, the Supremes and You.

birth control

SCOTUS has ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. I have seen primarily two types of reactions. On the one hand are my friends who see this as good news, a sort of mandate that will open the door to challenging all sorts of parts of the ACA. On the other hand are my friends who are disappointed with the Court’s decision this morning.

To all my friends, no matter your take on today’s ruling, I offer the following thoughts:

  1. This is a very narrow decision applying only to closely held corporations. A closely held corporation is a corporation where less than 5 individuals hold more than half of the shares. They are private companies and are not publicly held.
  1. This decision leaves the door open for the government to pick up the slack and pay for contraceptives themselves using tax dollars, including the tax dollars of the owners of Hobby Lobby.  Congress could also choose to impose a small tax on large corporations to make up for the coverage. Alito also noted in the majority opinion that employees of these companies could still obtain birth control through an accommodation introduced by President Obama for employees of religiously affiliated nonprofits. This program allows for the insurance companies to provide the coverage while not involving the employer.
  1. Even though Hobby Lobby has won this battle, it may lead to them losing the broader war. Don’t get me wrong; I think it is only a small step in that direction. In other words, someday when we look back at this decision, we may see that it directly contributed to America eventually adopting a single payer system.

BONUS: I do find it interesting that the court was quick to point out that this decision only applies to the birth control mandate and does not apply to other treatments that raise life and death questions, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions. They also made it clear that the ruling was not a free pass for companies to opt out of any law they consider incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Where do I stand personally on the decision of the court today? I will leave you with the words of a woman far more eloquent and learned than I, The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg who said in her blistering dissent,

“In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent. “

 

Additional Reading:

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/eggh45efjj/top-20-largest-private-companies-in-america-2/

https://wordofawoman.com/2012/11/14/why-christian-companies-corporate-conscience-should-be-clear/

https://wordofawoman.com/2014/01/24/mike-huckabee-a-lesson-in-missing-the-point/

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World Vision vs Hobby Lobby

world-vision

 

Today in court Hobby Lobby is asserting that because certain owners of the company are Christians,  the for profit business is also “Christian” and should be allowed to forego supplying coverage that goes against their conscience, i.e. birth control. They feel this way because they believe some types of birth control can be abortifacient. Rather than allowing women and their doctors to discuss all the options available and decide on the best course of action, Hobby Lobby would also like to make sure the insurance they provide does not even cover such discussions if they involve the types of birth control they disapprove of. Nevermind the fact that they sell thousands of products made in China, a country which encourages (and sometimes mandates) abortion if it is necessary to maintain the one child policy. Forget about the fact that employees can use the money they are paid (by Hobby Lobby) to engage in other activities (sins) the owners may feel offend their conscience when they are off the clock (or shall we also allow them to decide how their employees spend that money as well, perhaps the employees should have to provide expense receipts to justify their choices so that Hobby Lobby can avoid inadvertently financing what they consider sinful activities). Perhaps they should just set up an old school company store and employees could live in a company town where only Hobby Lobby approved, sin free products and activities are condoned. Sorry for the snark, but honestly, it is just nuts.

Do they not understand that contributing to the cost of an employee’s government mandated health care plan which may or may not mean they choose a birth control method they disapprove of is NO DIFFERENT than giving them a paycheck that the employee then uses to buy the EXACT SAME type of birth control? It is the same money! It came from the same place! You bear the exact same responsibility for the employee’s choice of birth control and you should have the exact same amount of say in that choice…NONE!

Hobby Lobby’s supporters also say, as do all the defenders of the various “turn away the gay” laws, that they are merely fighting for their constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom. The first amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.  In the decision written by Chief Justice Waite, however, the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. United States ruled that “Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order,” and that allowing people (and in this case Hobby Lobby) to do so “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government would exist only in name under such circumstances.” Personally, this is why I am confident (and will be extremely disappointed if the Court comes back with any other decision) that the Supreme Court will rule for the government in this case.

In other news, yesterday World Vision, a Christian non-profit agency whose mission is providing “emergency assistance to children and families affected by natural disasters and civil conflict, work[ing] with communities to develop long-term solutions to alleviate poverty, and advocat[ing] for justice on behalf of the poor, set the evangelical world on fire by stating that:

…since World Vision is a multi-denominational organization that welcomes employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians, the board—in keeping with our practice of deferring to church authority in the lives of our staff, and desiring to treat all of our employees equally—chose to adjust our policy. Thus, the board has modified our Employee Standards of Conduct to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.

Since World Vision’s announcement, the evangelical world has their knickers in a twist.  Benjamin L. Corey sarcastically translated the collective twitter rants on Formerly Fundie:

“I have sponsored this child for many years now and built a relationship with them. Yes, I know that this is a specific child with a real name and real story who will miss my letters. I know that this child may end up dying from lack of access to clean water or medicine without my help. I understand that without the education my donation provides, this child is at high risk of a life of trafficking and exploitation. Yes, I know that my donation makes sure they get three square meals a day and that without it, they’re going to be hungry. But, I simply must abandon this child now that I realize Janice from accounting has a wife.”

The best (and by best I mean worst) part of the comments for me are the folks who say it is World Vision’s fault that these kids are going to go without now. They have no choice but to pull their support. WOW. Really? You really only give money to people who agree with you 100% on what is sin and what isn’t or do you only give money to the people who sin like you do? I mean come on, isn’t that what it comes down to? Many of us would prefer that people only committed the “sins” we are comfortable with. But wait, we are talking unrepentant sin here. Really? How about we stop contributing money to organizations who hire people who are gluttons? Maybe we should stop giving money to organizations that hire people who are divorced and remarried? Or having sex before marriage (none of us have done that, right? Oh snap, some of us have.)  So here we sit, World Vision tries to be inclusive of all of the beliefs of the 50 denominations of people they employ and THEY are cutting off the kids? If only Jesus had given us some clear direction in all of this, then we might know what to do. Oh wait, he did.

These arguments would be simpler if only Jesus had said something like “Whatever you did for the least of these you did for me” #WorldVision

— Micah J. Murray (@micahjmurray) March 25, 2014

As Kristen Howerton said on her post on Rage Against the Minivan,

Is access to food, water, and education trumped by keeping gay people out of a job at a nonprofit? If we want to serve people, we should not make distinctions about who we serve, and we should not deny those we serve out of disunity or division. It’s astounding to me that Christians would take food from starving children because a gay person might have helped in getting it there…I’m also just so, so dismayed that this is yet another instance in which Christians are telling the world that their feelings about gay people are stronger than their compassion. That their anger over gay employees is greater than their anger over starving children.

I cannot for the life of me understand people who would rather see all Hobby Lobby employees lose their jobs (the owners have threatened to close their stores if they lose) to protect the religious sensibilities of the owners (who coincidentally also sin) than see some of their employees be allowed their choice of birth control (some of which Hobby Lobby deem sinful). These are the same people who would rather have the child they sponsor be left wondering why they were dropped than continue allowing World Vision to use their funds to be the hands and feet of Jesus because the dude who is in charge of bringing clean water to villages in developing countries is married to a man named Jim instead of a woman named Jane.  Jesus wept.

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There are tons of ways to help World Vision. You can fund a microloan, sponsor a child, provide disaster relief, buy handmade gifts for friends, or choose any one of several items to give from their catalog including water wells, anti-trafficking aid, farm animals, schooling and many many more. Please go visit WorldVision.org and lend your support today.

Why Christian Companies’ Corporate Conscience Should be Clear

English: Hobby Lobby store in Stow, Ohio

Hobby Lobby store in Stow, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This is NOT a post about:

  1. when life begins
  2. whether contraception causes abortion
  3. whether Roe vs. Wade should be overturned
  4. Pro-choice vs. Pro-life

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So there is a lot of hubbub out there right now about Hobby Lobby and their suit against the Federal Government over Obamacare.  Their basic concern, and the concern of many Christian business owners is that Obamacare is causing them “to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits” by requiring them to provide insurance that covers abortions, contraception and the morning after pill. They contend that it violates their conscience to provide such coverage because they morally oppose the use of such medications and procedures. It is my contention, however, that Hobby Lobby — and companies like them — can and should comply with the new law without any hesitation. It is also my contention that they can rest easy knowing that God does not lay (what they consider to be) the sins of others at their feet.

Requiring Christian-owned businesses to provide health insurance which covers contraception is not, honestly, that big of a deal, simply because it effectively changes nothing. Companies such as Hobby Lobby already pay people money that some of those people then use to pay for contraceptives/abortion themselves. Should Hobby Lobby be allowed to fire all those people? Of course not. Hobby Lobby is no more or less responsible for the use of said contraceptives either way. Once the money leaves their hands in the form of a paycheck or insurance premium the use of the money is no longer their responsibility. Some companies argue that under Obama care, they know that their money will be used to pay for abortions. Here are the facts.

#1. Every state must offer at least one plan that does not cover abortion so that there is an option for individuals who do not want this coverage.

#2 You will not have to pay for other people’s abortions unless you have opted to have this coverage for yourself.

In her article from earlier this year, Laura Bassett summed it up this way:

In fact, the policy does not require anyone who does not want abortion coverage to pay for it. Under the law, states have to offer at least one health plan on their insurance exchanges that doesn’t cover abortion services at all. If a state decides it does want to have health plans that cover abortion services on its exchange, and if a woman chooses one of those plans, then she has to pay a separate fee of at least $1 to a separate account for that coverage in order to make sure no federal dollars are used to support abortion services.

For people who opt into a health plan that covers abortion, the Affordable Care Act requires that health plans “provide a notice to enrollees” at the time of enrollment that their plan includes the surcharge, but those plans are not allowed to advertise the specific surcharge.

In short, the employees are given their choice of plans at least one of which will not include abortion coverage.

Now I realize that if even one woman they employ chooses that coverage and then has an abortion, some of their money will go to paying for it. But think of it this way; if I hire you to clean out my garage and then you use that money for an abortion, it is exactly the same. The health care law requires employers to provide an insurance option that covers abortion and contraception. It does not require employers to pass out morning after pills or write checks to abortion clinics. The employee is still making the choice, not the employer.

Listen, I am not pro-abortion. I think it should be as rare as possible. But to argue that I am then morally responsible for your choices off the clock simply because I provide you a paycheck or help pay for your insurance is insane. I guarantee you Hobby Lobby has paid people who have used their money to sin in all kinds of ways. I do not hold them responsible for that. They cannot, nor should they be able to, tell people how they can or cannot spend their paychecks. Unless of course they are breaking the law.

A well-meaning friend said to me today that it is a free country and the people don’t have to work there. They can just go somewhere else where that coverage is offered. Really? So now people have to know all about the owners of a company before they take a job? They need to find someone they agree with on all moral and spiritual accounts before they can work somewhere? That is like expecting an employer to know everything about a person before hiring them. This is a free country, we embrace freedom of religion when it comes to personal practice. What we do not allow is one person’s freedom of religion to trump the rights of others. If you want to do business in the United States, there are all kinds of things you may consider sinful that you cannot use to discriminate against someone when considering them for a job. For example we don’t allow companies to ask if people have already had an abortion, whether they are living with their boyfriend/girlfriend or are gay. I guarantee you that people who already work for Hobby Lobby are and have done all these things. People in fact spend their paychecks from Hobby Lobby in support of those choices.

Sadly, I think most people are just more comfortable with people who sin in the same ways they do or just keep it to themselves.

Here is the bottom line: The owners of Hobby Lobby should comply and then go to bed with a clear conscience. The individual using the contraceptives or getting the abortion or living with their boyfriend or doing drugs with the money you pay them was doing it yesterday and will do it again tomorrow. Obamacare does nothing to change that or make you pay for more of that (in fact it may be that less of an employer’s money goes to abortion since the insurance will pay a portion rather than 100% of it coming from that person’s paycheck). A company has no control (nor should they) over the private acts of an individual – and that is a good thing. God does not hold us responsible for the sins of others.

Consider this? What if the owners were Jehovah’s Witnesses (which don’t believe in getting blood transfusions) and they decide to remove the coverage for blood transfusions from their insurance policies. Would you be okay with that? What if they were Christian Science? They do not believe in much medical intervention at all. Should they be required to provide insurance for their employees? You see, when taken to its logical conclusion, it falls apart. The only truly fair way to handle this is to let each individual choose for themselves and Christians should be okay with that. After all Romans 12:10-12 says:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

My point is that by providing the mandated insurance options ,Hobby Lobby does not need to feel their conscience is being violated. They are not controlling whether or not these people have these procedures either way. The individuals involved are controlling their own behavior. The owner’s consciences should remain clear. Their money (in the form of people’s paychecks) is already being spent donating to pro choice causes, Democrat candidates and Planned Parenthood, not to being spent on drugs, alcohol, abortion, porn and any number of other things they may not agree with. It is the nature of commerce in a free society.

Another friend asserted today that we should afford rights to people as long as they didn’t contradict the Bible. Wow! Here is the problem. Turning the Bible into American Law is a BAD idea. Even if you are a very conservative Christian this should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Exactly whose version of the Bible do we follow? The Southern Baptist Convention’s? Brian McLaren’s? Pat Robertson’s? Mark Driscoll’s? Heavens to Betsy! Let’s think this through!

I am a follower of Jesus and I want my country to afford and protect my right  to worship as I see fit. I DO NOT want to live in a theocracy until Jesus is the one leading it, even if my personal beliefs were respected. Even if you, my lovelies, got to write up the laws based on your understanding of who God is and what he wants, eventually someone else rises to power and next thing you know all the women are not allowed to go to school and are forced to wear burqas. Afghanistan springs to mind. The beauty of the United States is that the same Constitution that guarantees my Muslim neighbor, my atheist neighbor, my Israeli neighbor, my gay neighbor and my Mormon neighbor their rights to believe and practice ensures my right to do the same. As soon as I begin removing or denying their rights it is only a matter of time before mine are next.

If you do follow Jesus as I do, we can look to him for how best to handle this situation. In Matthew 22:15-22 it says:

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

During this period of history the Jews were occupied by the Romans. There were many Jews who thought the Messiah would come in and overthrow the government. By all accounts the Roman Empire was not known for being kind and benevolent. In fact, quite the opposite. They were most likely spending the money that the Jews paid them in tribute to perpetuate all kinds of things the Jewish people disagreed with. Did Jesus blame them for the sins of the Romans since the money they provided was used for things they didn’t allow? Did he say, “Refuse to pay Caesar what he requires? In fact, sue him. Our money shouldn’t be used for such things!”? No, actually, he didn’t. Did he ever say anything to the political leaders of the Roman Empire about how they spent the money? Nope. Not a word in the scriptures about that. Jesus reserved his words about money and how to spend it for the people who claimed to follow God. And here, where he could have said stop paying the tribute and use that money for something else, he instead says, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

We can also look at the scriptures and see that God never forces us or manipulates us or bans us from making poor choices.  (For the record I don’t see birth control as a poor choice, and I think any situation where an abortion is chosen or necessary is tragic, but there are many for which any abortion or contraception is seen as sin). He also never forces us to choose him and he doesn’t strike dead those who don’t. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. God’s mercies are new everyday.

I think we can draw from these passages that Jesus is more concerned with the hearts of the owners of Hobby Lobby who say they follow him than he is about the money they essentially pay as a tax to provide healthcare.

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