I craft a lot. I don’t even care if its too femme to be feminist – crafting makes me and many others incredibly happy. Right now, my big, crafty thought is how to decorate my mortarboard for graduation. I think about it in the car, during boring Gen Ed classes, and sometimes while people talk about video games. You can keep your Call of Duty; I’d rather make glittery puns. But now, crafting has failed me. I shudder with inner turmoil at the mere thought because it means making a trip to Hobby Lobby.
Last year, Hobby Lobby, that Babylon of chintz and craft supplies, brought a lawsuit against the federal government on the grounds that the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act violated their religious freedom. Specifically, they object to covering certain kinds of contraception, such as Plan B, because they prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. If you believe as the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, do, that life begins at conception, that qualifies as an abortion.
The question that everyone is or should be asking is can a corporation have a religion, or more specifically, be so dedicated to religious principles that they qualify for religious freedom? The Constitution guarantees each individual both the right to worship or not worship the way they choose, and the freedom from having other religions pushed on them. All of the freedoms in the Bill of Rights echo in a similar way -you are free to do whatever as long as it does not impinge on the freedoms of your fellow citizen. Or, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “your freedom stops at my nose.”
But private corporations, while legally recognized as individuals for business purposes, simply do not have or merit ALL the rights and freedoms of flesh and blood persons. With something so personal – dare I say, so individualistic – as religion, there’s no way to create a corporation as wholly unified as a real person. Without throwing in the precious snowflake metaphor, there’s no way to make sure that a corporation is monolithic, mono-political, or mono-religious without discrimination or violation of the Equal Opportunity Act. Neither can you prove that a whole corporation or its owners are truly sincere. If not everyone is sincere, and not every one believes the same thing, doesn’t a corporation claiming and enforcing one particular set of religious beliefs violate the comprising individual?
And really, from a philosophical perspective, can a corporation even have a soul? One that might go to Heaven? I don’t think Jesus mentioned that.
An example of what would happen if Hobby Lobby were to win their case: Yuki, a Buddhist, works for Hobby Lobby. She wants to avoid pregnancy by taking regular contraception, including the occasional Plan B. Her religion does not forbid abortion or contraception, but she is unable to obtain it with her birth control because her employer doesn’t believe in it. And why stop at birth control? As Justice Sotomayor pointed out, a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could lead to other necessary things being denied. A company owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses could forbid their insurance from covering blood transfusions. A Seventh-day Adventist corporation could forbid their employees for forming unions. They both believe those are wrong, religiously, so where do you draw the line?
Ultimately, I don’t think this court case has very much to do with religion or abortion. Mostly because Hobby Lobby had no problem covering all contraception until the Affordable Care Act told them they had to make sure. Or because Hobby Lobby’s 401K mutual funds invest more than $73 million dollars in companies that manufacture emergency “abortion-causing”contraception, according to a recent article by Mother Jones‘Molly Redden. OR the fact that the majority of their products are made in the People’s Republic of China, which has extremely high rates of abortion of female fetuses.
No, I rather think the idea behind this lawsuit is the growing desire by the Christian right to expand their hold in the economic sector. If you convince people of the same beliefs that your company shares and promotes their beliefs, they’ll be more likely to buy your products. It’s all about the cash flow. Remember how many people started to eat at Chik-fil-A just because of their anti-gay support? Hobby Lobby is trying the same scam with the abortion issue.
But, the joke’s on you, Hobby Lobby. You’re hurting your primary demographic, women.
And Jo-Ann’s has better fabrics than you, anyway.