When first hearing the decision of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, my initial reaction was to jump to the separation of Church and State. But the more I thought about it, it didn’t seem like that was the key issue here. While I think it pertains to the case, I don’t think it was the key question. To me, the key question is whether or not the business action of David and Barbara Green, the owners of Hobby Lobby, are protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
I’m personally not well versed in politics of the ins and outs of the judicial system, so if you want a detailed summary of the case and the result, click here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/13-354 . From my understanding, the Supreme Court ruled businesses that are “closely held” can object to the birth control provision in Obamacare on the basis of religion. It is important to note that Hobby Lobby only objects to emergency birth control methods like Plan B. I believe this decision came from the protections given by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is an act aimed at preventing laws from impeding on people’s religious freedom. As applied to this case, it would prevent a piece of legislation, Obamacare, from forcing the Greens to act in a way, having their company pay for women’s birth control, that goes against their religion. The Greens are Evangelical Christians.
Now I can’t speak to their personal beliefs because I do not know them, but from the details of the case, I think it is safe to assume that they on at least some level do not agree with the use of birth control. Whether I agree with it or not, they are entitled to hold that belief. What is up for debate however, is whether or not their company paying for birth control for its employees somehow limits them from practicing their religion. The Supreme Court obviously believed so, I have my doubts. My interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was that it was to prevent laws that directly burdened a person’s ability to freely exercise their religion. To me that is not what is going on here. While, the Greens may not agree with birth control, they are not directly being forced to pay for the coverage. There’s a difference between Hobby Lobby and David and Barbara Green. It is not as if the money to pay for the coverage is coming directly out of the Green’s pockets. It is coming out of the revenue from Hobby Lobby. This money never goes to the Green because it goes directly to pay for the employee’s health care coverage. While the Greens may own Hobby Lobby, that does not mean that they company assumes all of its owners beliefs and values. Hobby Lobby cannot have a religious orientation because it is not a person. To me, this is similar to taxes. A portion of whatever revenue Hobby Lobby generates goes to directly to taxes. It is a known expense that is simply a part of running a business. The Greens cannot decide that they do not want to pay a portion of their taxes because they object to what it is going to pay for. This should be the same principle with health care. If part of Obamacare dictates that the health coverage you pay includes birth control, I do not believe that the Greens can then refuse to pay it simply because they religiously disagree with it. Their ability to practice their religion has not been infringed. The money that went to pay for the coverage was not their personal money. It was money from a company they owned. But that’s just my opinion.
Channing McNeal is a senior studying Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. His interests include literature, sports, poetry, philosophy and cooking.