3/31/14

I had the opportunity to watch/listen to the Supreme Court argument in the matter of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties. To recount in short: Hobby Lobby is a private firm whose founders are deeply religious and who have tried to run their business while keeping its development and practices in line with their religious beliefs. No one, not even the government and not any one of consequence, disputes this point.

Hobby Lobby claimed that the government mandate to provide many different kinds of contraception as part of the health insurance coverage provided by them to their 13,000 employees forces them to go against their deeply held religious beliefs. HL is providing 10 out of the 14 forms of contraception required by the regulation. They only object to four, which are forms of post-facto contraception, say Plan B. According to HL this is tantamount to them supporting abortion (given that they believe that life begins at conception).

HL filed a claim against the government to allow them to opt out of these four measures and the claim made its way up the jurisdictional ladder until finally HL won in front of the Federal 10th circuit court of appeal and the government appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn this finding of the 10th circuit (in the matter of Conestoga, essentially the same case, the 3rd circuit decided for the government and it is Conestoga that is appealing).

The oral argument revolved around two main subjects:

  • Do for-profit corporate entities have the right to appeal to the court under Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)?
  • Even if they do, does the government have Compelling Interest in protecting the statutory rights of Hobby Lobby’s employees?

I am no expert on the SCOTUS and even experts get it wrong more often than not, but it sounded to me like the government lost the first argument hands down. It sounded like justices from both sides and the middle were totally opposed to the notion that for-profit corporate entities do not have religious rights. The government’s notion that if an individual practices his trade as an individual he is protected by RFRA, but the moment he incorporates he loses these protections is just untenable even to the uninitiated. The fact that the government entertains such arguments and that some lower courts supported it is frightening. I think that even if HL loses their case under the Compelling Interest argument they will establish once and for all that corporations, even for-profit ones (the horror— profits…) are People as Mitt Romney once said famously to the chorus of criticism from the leftist media. Of course companies are people. They are the shareholders (people), they are managers (people), they are employees (people), and they are customers (people). They may have and indeed they do have very divergent interests and are many times not on the same page as each other, but ultimately they are all people, until the “machines” take over companies are people and thus are entitled to religious rights.

The more controversial argument was the second one. I think that the answer is very clear and that it is that the government does NOT have a compelling interest here, certainly not one enough to override the religious freedom rights of people. But the justices were clearly not united on this element of the oral argument and we will just have to wait to see if the liberal wing will win this element or the conservative wing, or will the Chief Justice again cow to political pressure and craft some unreasonable explanation of why he is siding with the liberal wing. To read a very comprehensive and compelling (pun intended) explanation of why the government has no Compelling Interest in this case, read this. Stanford’s professor Michael McConnell is much more knowledgeable, articulate, and persuasive on this matter than I will ever be.

But what struck me most of all in listening to C-SPAN’s broadcast is the reactions that came from both sides of the argument after the hearing. To me they were very instructive and ruefully typical.

Both HL and Conestoga gave very short and to-the-point reactions. They are Christians, they have deeply held beliefs, and they are hoping that SCOTUS will affirm their rights not to support abortion. No theatrics, no great presentation, no dramatics, nothing.

After them came a host of I think 5 different women each representing different so-called women’s organization (Planned Parenthood I thought was a family organization but they call themselves a women’s one) who proceeded to spew diatribe which has nothing to do with the case. To include dramatics and tragic stories—not that these stories are not tragic or illustrate some point or another, it is just that they are NOT relevant to THIS case.

The main idea of all these reactions was that women’s right to contraception is unquestionable and no one’s business other than that of the woman. But that was NOT the issue in the case. No one in their right mind or anywhere other than the VERY extreme, extreme narrow margins of society debates women’s right to ACCESS to contraception. That is settled; it was NEVER a major argument or issue as it makes sense and even religious people accept that women must have access to all kinds of contraception. The church does not like it but nor does it go and excommunicate women who use contraception. HL did not fire women who use Plan B pills after they had intercourse (or “coitus” as Dr. Sheldon Cooper is fond of saying…). Indeed none other than the president himself declared that 99 percent of women use contraception at various times during their lifetime. That is a pretty high standard so access was never the issue.

No, the issue was always about who pays for it. There was absolutely no need for these organizations that support women’s rights to get on their high horses here and even take a stand. Why do they care and why do they need to get involved here? It was either going to be HL that pays for it directly or the government that will pay for it directly. One way or another they would get what they wanted. The mandate exists and this was not about the mandate. The government already gives many religious organizations an exemption or semi-exemption from this mandate. Straight-forward religious employers, churches, and the like are allowed to EXCLUDE contraception from their coverage all together. Semi-religious organizations can sign a document stating that it is against their belief to provide such coverage and that automatically forces the insurer that provides them with the general coverage to provide  contraception coverage separately AND free directly to the employees (this procedure of having to sign a piece of paper is also being debated in the courts in the famous case of the Little Sisters of the Poor).

So why get involved? Why is it that these women’s organizations feel the need to get involved where they really have no case? No one is threatening the access to contraception; no one in this case is debating that the women should get it for (so-called) free. The only question is who pays for it. Why do these organizations need to get involved? Why do they need to be duplicitous about the issue?

It is all about politics. It has NOTHING to do with the right of HL employees.

It is all in order to make a political statement. This is all part of the obvious agenda to support the Obama administration and Democratic Party’s phony notion of war on women in order to provide political support for the Democrats.

It is insincere, it is not truthful, and it will end up biting them when the tide turns.

But it shows one other element of the terrible truth—when the truth is not on their side, liberals will stop at nothing to try and win nonetheless. They will ALWAYS twist the truth and the arguments in order to win a battle in their ideological war because the goal justifies the means. And the media supports them and gives them coverage.