Ruth Bader Ginsburg along with pundits of all stripes have justifiably raised their concern with the Hobby Lobby ruling, but not all the problems have been adequately addressed. The fact that this case even exists illustrates the dangers of government over reach into the freedom of individuals. Because of a number of laws that the government has passed regarding healthcare, employment, taxation, and religion, we find ourselves in a sticky situation that lacks a good solution. As a result the Supreme Court was faced with the option of either trampling on individual freedom or granting a corporation special legal privileges at the expense of the greater good. In this case there are no good answers.
Companies Should Not Be Involved In Health Care
The Hobby Lobby decision is a great example of why employers should not be involved in providing health insurance to their employees. There is no reason why one’s employer should have a say in what sort of health insurance coverage he or she can obtain. The fault for this situation lies in price controls instituted during WWII which gave rise to our current system. Congress capped wages but not benefits, so companies used healthcare as a way avoid these wage controls but in the process created a few unintended consequences. Congress strengthened the incentive by giving employers a tax benefit for providing health insurance and then by not taxing health benefits for employees as income (if a person purchased insurance on the market they had to use after tax dollars). All these choices conspired to create addition government imposed costs on the individual market.
Companies Should Be Allowed to Choose Benefits
If a company is providing a form of compensation, they should be allowed to determine what that compensation will be. If they do not want to offer a particular benefit or service, they should be free to do so. If, for example, Jenny McCarthy decides that she wants to start a company and not provide vaccines through her health insurance, she should be free to do that. But the government should not be subsidizing Ms. Mcarthy ability to determine anyone’s health provider but her own. They should not be giving Mrs. Mcarthy a tax benefit that individuals do not have.
Why is Birth Control a Right?
Birth control should not be a treated any differently than any other medicine. There are countless medical therapies and drugs that are effective but not covered by insurance. Birth control should not be a special case – it should be put on the same pedestal as ever other medical intervention or treatment. Access to birth control, because of its connection to abortion and sex, occupies a special place in the social and political discourse that tends to elevate its importance by both its supporters and detractors. People attack and defend contraception with almost religious fervor as if it is some wonder drug when in reality it is just one aspects of thousands of medical decisions that are regulated in some form.
Why is a Religious Exemption More Important than Any Other Moral Exemption?
If Aztecs were still around and practicing their religion, I doubt that the Supreme Court would grant them an exemption to practice human sacrifice. Human sacrifice is an extreme example, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted how the law must now decide if exemptions should extend to religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions from Jehovah’s Witnesses or antidepressants from Scientologists, among others. She also noted in her dissent that this puts the government in the position of potentially favoring one religion over another potentially violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
If we are a nation of laws, with religious freedom, do we really want the government deciding which religions can break laws and which cannot? Why should one’s religion allow them to break the law, while one’s personal convictions which are not a part of a larger belief system shared by others not qualify? Under the rule of law a person’s belief in a supernatural being should not grant them special privileges that are not enjoyed by the rest of us. In fact a person’s religious beliefs should have no being on the rule of law at all.
How Does a Corporation Prove that it is Pious?
Corporations may be people under the law but they rarely go to church or attend any other religious services. Therefore how does a corporation prove that it is acting out of religious conviction and thus deserving of government bestowed special treatment? Is simply having a majority of owners declare they feel this way enough? Perhaps a corporation should not be doing business with contraception providers – like Hobby Lobby does by having pharmaceutical company’s who profit from contraception drugs in their retirement portfolio. The system we have now allows companies to cherry pick their values when they see fit to flout the law but requires no consistency or actual adherence to any doctrine.
The Real Problem
The Hobby Lobby case has plenty of problems, but most of the problems are not a result of the ruling. If they court had ruled in Favor of Hobby Lobby, it still would have been guilty of forcing individuals to subsidize behavior that they deem immoral. In a free country the government should not force people to violate their convictions. By ruling for Hobby Lobby the government is saying that your employer should be determining your health insurance options in any manner they see fit according to their interpretation of a government approved and sanctioned religion. The runs counter to individual freedom, religious freedom, and to the effective functioning of the health insurance market.
The best solution is to take the employer, religion, and the government out of the equation. Allow the health insurance purchasing process to be between a person and their insurance provider.
Next, the government should pass fewer laws so that they are not interfering with people’s religious practices. In cases where necessary laws do interfere with a religious practice, the law of the land should remain and certain religious practices should not be allowed simply because of a person’s belief in an officially recognized deity of some sort. Everyone should have the same rights and privileges under the law regardless of their religious beliefs. That way people could by their own insurance, and the sinful contraception users could find their solution and the holy than thou Bible thumpers would be free from violating their core convictions. As a bonus our country would also get a more consistent rule of law and perhaps an actual functioning health insurance market.