Rick Warren and Russell D. Moore have predicted that Hobby Lobby, and the forty-seven other for-profit organizations that are challenging the Affordable Care Act with them, will win their Supreme Court case. While a comment like this isn’t surprising, their prediction, if it were to come true, would be devastating to to the rights of employees across the country and would be one of the most blatant instances of undermining the law for a personal agenda the United States has ever seen.
Here’s the thing about religion. It’s separate from the secular world. Well, at least it should be. The case before the Supreme Court has frequent citations of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which prevents the implementation of laws that would burden a person’s free exercise of their religion. First, let’s examine the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
The above quote means that the Government of the United States is not allowed to show preference when it comes to religion, on top not allowing there to be an official religion in the United States. However, I will admit, things get a little more complicated the further in we go. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States:
“… or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”
I can only assume this is what the Green family, and the other business owners who are aligned with them, are using when it comes to their declarations regarding the First Amendment. This half of the first sentence of that amendment does allow the plaintiffs to be able to freely express and utilize their religion in most aspects of their lives. Unfortunately, this makes their argument a little more sound because there have not been any addages or additional specifications to the Amendment to specify when and where free exercise is appropriate. On top that, free exercise literally means free exercise. Since the rule of law has been reduced to a Fourth Grade class learning about vocabulary (the placement of commas in a statute have decided cases before), citing the First Amendment, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, does create a solid platform for these organizations to use their religious convictions as a way to circumvent a law they disagree with on those religious conviction.
So, in a situation such as this, where the law has become somewhat contradictory, how does one determine the legitimacy of Hobby Lobby’s claims? I think, in this case, common sense needs to be applied. What would be the positives of Hobby Lobby’s victory? What would be the negatives? How does this decision affect not only the marketplace, but the people working and spending and profiting within it? From a personal standpoint, I don’t see any real positive come out of this. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, then they’ve essentially given Hobby Lobby, and nearly every single other organization and company within the American market, a pass to deliberately shit on every law that applies to the American marketplace. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would essentially equate their businesses with churches and other religious institutions.
Ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, on the grounds of the religious beliefs of their executive staff, would violate the Establishment Clause, but as I mentioned before, the law is contradictory in this case, for ruling against Hobby Lobby could be interpreted as violating the Free Exercise Clause. There is an impasse within the First Amendment as it applies to this case. So, I suppose definitions are in order.
The biggest question here is whether or not Hobby Lobby can justify this argument in the first place. Hobby Lobby is a for-profit business, which means the company is responsible for insurance, not the Green family themselves. So, with that being said, we now have to ask ourselves if businesses are allowed to have human and civil rights upon themselves. Unfortunately, we have given human identities to businesses before. Businesses are allowed to contribute to political campaigns, for example, making them a piece of the political landscape. They have become votes, essentially. However, it is a slightly different beast when it comes to a secular business looking for an exclusion based upon a religious principle. Of course, this whole thing could snowball the entire system.
If you allow an exclusion for one law, then logically, you must allow exclusions for other laws, so long as these exclusions are formed on the basis of the original. Allowing a company like Hobby Lobby to declare that the religious convictions of it’s executive staff are not seperate from the business itself sets a dangerous precedent. Hobby Lobby already does not operate on Sundays, a removal of what is, in some cases, the most lucrative day of the week for retailers, because of the religious convictions of it’s office. But by allowing Hobby Lobby to circumvent the law because they can’t keep religion out of their secular business, could open the flood gates to a whole host of company statutes and provisions that would give every member of the ACLU a collective stroke. What would stop Hobby Lobby from making its employees have a prayer group before business opens for the day? What would stop Hobby Lobby from holding a mandatory service? What would stop Hobby Lobby from taking a percentage of its employee’s checks and using them as tithing for their church? Furthermore, what would stop Hobby Lobby from discriminating against potential employees because of their religious convictions (or in some cases, lackthereof), or their race, or their gender, or their sexual orientation, and/or immediately terminate current employees who do not meet their Fundamentalist criteria? What would stop countless other companies from trying to play the “religion card” with their own businesses?
There probably wouldn’t be anything that would stand in the way of such atrocious business practices. To allow an organization to circumvent a single law because of a religious conviction sets the stage for the circumventing of any number of laws for the same reason. All Hobby Lobby, or any other business, would have to do is cite the win over the Affordable Care Act and all of sudden a marketplace exists where qualifications go far beyond a skillset. All of a sudden, to be qualified for a job, one would have to meet criteria that is, for all intents and purposes, pretty much unobtainable. If we were to allow ideology to be a factor in the workplace, the entire system would collapse. No longer would there be different personalities, strengths, and experiences coming together to make a business function at optimal efficiency. There would be situations where highly qualified applicants and employees would be turned away because they just so happen to not be of the same religion as the men and women who operate the business. Customers could even be turned away. A case can even be made that secularization in the marketplace is a very influential factor into the overall functioning of the marketplace. There are literally many things that go wrong in setting a precedent of this kind.
This is why religion is excluded, or rather, should be excluded. Religion belongs in the personal convictions of men and women, in church, and in the homes of the religious. That’s it. It has no place in the secular world, since not everyone in the country is of the same denomination. In today’s marketplace, an athiest can walk into Hobby Lobby and not be denied service. A Muslim can walk into Hobby Lobby and fill out a job application and cannot have that application removed from consideration because of their religious convictions. To allow Hobby Lobby to circumvent the law because of a religious belief could push that atheist out the door without their goods and automatically disqualify that Muslim from providing for their family. Is this a risk we are willing to take?