Vail Daily column: Hobby lobby’s folly
March 31, 2014
"Corporations are people too, my friend!"
Who could forget the happy-go-lucky phrase shouted by Mitt just a few months before he became a footnote in American politics?
Certainly not the Supreme Court, which must now decide if those same "people" can have a religious belief system, and if so, does it trump the First Amendment right of an individual in their employ.
In a nutshell, the Green family (sole owners of Hobby Lobby) want to refuse to pay for a certain segment of health care coverage (which is part of compensation, not simply a provided service) based solely on a religious belief, and it only affects female employees.
Apparently they have no respect for their employees' beliefs yet demand the law be bent to their will to protect their beliefs.
I'm sorry, I mean their corporations' beliefs. Big difference.
Regardless of the Green family's religious convictions, it does not matter if they are Muslim, Christian, Scientologist, FSMs, atheists or whatever, to me they are still twisting religious liberty as a means to make discrimination — in their favor of course — accepted law.
If the court rules for Hobby Lobby any "belief" by any business, no matter how silly or absurd, could be legally protected.
So tell me, is a corporation's religion decided by a shareholder vote or is it simply an action of the board? I own Vail Resorts stock, so can I launch a proxy fight to have the company promote atheism?
Is a corporation male or female? Who, or what, is baptized if it's a Christian corporation and who performs the circumcision if it's Jewish? Is a priest needed for a merger? Is a hostile takeover considered rape or a bankruptcy suicide?
I'm not trying to be sarcastically cute here (OK, maybe a little), as these could be valid arguments if this thing passes.
And it ain't no April Fool's joke neither.
A corporation owned by a Jehovah's Witness could only offer insurance which doesn't pay for blood transfusions. Hindu employers would not have to pay for insurance that covers bovine-based serums (of which there are many). Scientologists could disallow anti-depressants and psychiatry. Mormons could refuse coverage for an employee who has a liver issue due to alcohol consumption. Muslim employers could deny coverage for pork-based pancreatin, a chemical used in many contact lenses. Some of the even crazier ones rely 100 percent on faith healing, and they could simply refuse all health insurance for their employees because of their beliefs.
The possibilities are endless, and the longer the list the scarier the potential outcomes for employees, which to me means the Religious Reich is becoming more and more desperate in their attempts to change public policy to fit their latest version of morality.
A primary reason for incorporating in the first place is for protection of individual shareholder assets from the liabilities of the business entity, i.e. personal immunity from lawsuits, debts, etc., but you don't get to declare that the corporation is you on some days and not you on other days.
The Greens chose to incorporate their business, and if their corporation wants the tax benefits of compensating employees with insurance rather than cash, then they must follow the insurance rules. Health care has always been based on the individual needs of the patient and is a form of privacy just as protected by the constitution as any individual's right to spiritual freedom or lack thereof.
Until I see a corporation put on a uniform, sit in a wheelchair, have a proctology exam, walk on two legs, use a toilet, tell a child they are loved, drink a beer or ski down a mountain, it is not a person and does not have the same rights.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes a weekly column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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