The U.S. witnessed a landmark Supreme Court decision Monday, when the highest court in the land ruled that certain for-profit companies should not be required to provide specific contraceptives as a part of employee health insurance plans.
Hobby Lobby, the Christian-affiliated, family-owned arts and crafts supplier, was able to secure a narrow margin of victory after Supreme Court justices ruled 5-4 in favor of allowing closely-held businesses the right to refuse providing monetary support of contraceptive funding found in Obamacare mandates. The basis for the ruling was “religious objection,” which allows businesses that have owners with “clear religious beliefs” to reject complying with contraceptive mandates that include providing insurance coverage of the “morning-after pill,” the most widely used form of emergency contraception in the U.S.
While some conservative groups have rejoiced at the decision, there is no scenario here that I can think of that really benefits anyone other than Hobby Lobby and similar companies. This ruling is a blatant violation of the concept of the separation of church and state.
The official ruling cited a violation of the 1994 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, detailing that the Obamacare mandate “substantially burdens the exercise of religion,” and that the only reason an exception could be made was if “that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest.”
The language used and the enforcement of that language leads to a slippery slope; where do we draw the line? Corporations who do not have a stated religious affiliation must follow the mandate, but corporations who are outwardly religious receive a free pass.
As dissenting justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so eloquently stated after the final verdict had been announced, the Supreme Court has “ventured into a minefield.” This gray area which defines “religious objection” will likely be the centerpiece of numerous court cases to follow, because anyone can object to anything under the basis of religious freedom under this precedent.
The Hobby Lobby ruling also presents an extremely confusing contradiction in regards to other mandates, such as the Equal Opportunity Act of 1972. This act prohibits employers from using employment practices that would allow them to reject potential employment candidates based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, etc.
Well, if I was a closely-held private corporation, would I now be allowed to refuse employment to a homosexual individual on grounds of religious objection to the Equal Opportunity Act? It seems as if the Supreme Court would say, “Yes.”
Decisions for legal rulings are often based on precedents set by other court decisions. By ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, what’s stopping me from establishing my own religion tomorrow and declaring that income taxes are a grave transgression of my beliefs? Under the latest Supreme Court action, I would not have to pay income taxes.
You know, on second thought, that seems like a great plan.
Andy Rao is a graduate student in family studies and human services. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.