This past week there has been a lot of discussion regarding the recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which allows the owners of closely held corporations to not comply with the mandate to provide contraception as it conflicts with their sincerely held beliefs.
This is a hard one, because if you do not have the same sincerely held beliefs, this feels like judgement against a woman’s use of contraception. I’ve read status after status of women explaining how it’s not “wrong” that they use birth control, that this is another example of the patriarchy giving a big ole middle finger to women, of individuals rejoicing that they are not now being forced to pay for women’s recreational activities.
It’s been fairly disgusting, all of it. And here’s the thing: this case? This ruling? This isn’t about birth control. Contraception and women’s rights are such a hair trigger for Feelings on both sides that the actual issue has gotten lost in yelling.
The Supreme Court held that Hobby Lobby and other corporations have the same rights as individuals under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that is “aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person’s free exercise of their religion””
The healthcare mandate is a law that requires contraception be covered. The owners of the Hobby Lobby corporation feel they are being forced to comply with a law that is in direct conflict with their religion.
I get this. I really do. I have friends who are deeply religious and I understand, even if I do not identify with, their views on contraception. Regardless of my personal beliefs on the matter, I understand their viewpoint and would never think that my blog, my twitter status, my pithy meme on Facebook is going to have them go “OH RIGHT, so what you’re saying is contraception IS OK. I get it now.” It won’t, and that’s not the point. I don’t need the owners of Hobby Lobby to agree with me; I agree with me, and I make my decisions and they make theirs and we all sleep fine at night.
Here’s the problem with the SCOTUS ruling: the Court did not rule that the individual owners of Hobby Lobby are being asked to do something that is in conflict with their beliefs. The ruled the CORPORATION that is Hobby Lobby is.
This is weird to me. Back in 2001, the Court itself stated:
linguistically speaking, the employee and the corporation are different “persons,” even where the employee is the corporation’s sole owner. After all, incorporation’s basic purpose is to create a distinct legal entity, with legal rights, obligations, powers, and privileges different from those of the natural individuals who created it, who own it, or whom it employs.
Corporations are designed specifically to remove an individual from personal liability with regards to the company’s actions. The entire point of having a corporation is to separate oneself from the company. So how can a corporation assume the religious freedom protection of the individuals behind the corporation if in it’s very nature it is legally shielded from those individuals?
The Supreme Court did not rule this week in favor of the Green family, it ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, an entity that is legally separate from the Green Family. I would never in a million years think it is appropriate to legally require the Greene family to act in conflict with their religious beliefs. That not how we do here, in ‘Merica. But the company? The entity that is in place specifically to guard the Green family from personal liability? I don’t understand how religious rights can be applied toward a corporation if liabilities can’t be applied backwards toward the people behind the corporation.
This is the real question that cropped up this week, and it’s a worthwhile debate. But instead we’re debating if contraception is ok, if women should be allowed it, if Catholics are crazy, if women are slutty. And while I do love a good round of slut shaming, religion bashing, and mansplaining, that’s not what this discussion is about.
Edited to add: My point – and I do have one – is that it doesn’t matter if you agree Plan B and other contraceptives are not abortificants. The Green Family does. They’re allowed, and they legally cannot be required to pay for those drugs in this country. And that is the way it should be, regardless of whether you or I or Mother Jones disagree. That’s the whole deal with religious freedom. But the Green Family is not Hobby Lobby – just look at their articles of incorporation.