(This is a parallel post that goes along with: The Scariness of Governmental Power in the Hobby Lobby Abortion Case)
The recent Hobby Lobby court ruling surrounding contraception, abortion and mandated health care presents another murky situation where we as a society are trying to determine the boundaries of governmental authority, religious freedom and personal conviction.
I just read an article by Richard Wolf in today’s USA Today which helped catch me up to speed on the story. An abbreviated version of the print article can be found here.
The article draws the battle lines quickly and clearly in the first sentence: The Supreme Court put religious freedom above reproductive rights Monday…
So, according to the media, this is a conversation about religious freedom and reproductive rights. But a closer look shows it’s not actually about either one of those things, which is exactly how the polarizing sides like it.
Hobby Lobby’s whole argument is that they do not want to pay for people to have abortions.
Is abortion strictly a religious freedom issue?
Abortion is not an equivalent topic to how a person goes to Heaven, who God is, or what holy book is God’s word and which one isn’t. These are strictly religious issues.
But does a person have to be religious to think abortion is wrong? Of course not. There are plenty of non-religious people who think abortion is wrong because of the moral and ethical principle of it. To say so would be such an absurd generalization, yet that’s how this entire argument is couched, from both sides! Hobby Lobby and religious folks want to use their governmental religious freedom (given to them in the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act) to say that they have the legal right to not pay for abortions because it goes against their religious beliefs.
This seems like a sound strategy, but this very strategy is what the liberal side has so easily and accurately shown has very dangerous and very scary implications.
The fear they have isn’t necessarily that Hobby Lobby is able to prevent people from taking the morning-after pill and use IUD’s, it’s how establishing a precedent will allow any religiously minded business anywhere to pretty much do anything they want to their employees and use their “Religion Card” to get away with it.
In a dissent summarized from the bench by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, they warned that granting religious exceptions to some closely held corporations could lead to requests from all others–potentially affecting all contraceptives, other forms of health care…and even the minimum wage to equal pay for women…others might seek religious waivers for…vaccines or blood transfusions.
Christians have to remember that we aren’t the only religion out there and any religious freedom legislation that protects us also protects all religions. The same drum we are successfully beating (for Hobby Lobby) to not have to perform abortions* is the one the Jehovah’s Witnesses will beat when they want to ban blood transfusions and vaccines, or that branches of Islam might use to not pay women equally. Heck, who knows what the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster will try to legislate on behalf of their religious freedom!
Frankly, I think the liberal argument is pretty sound here. Make an exception here with Hobby Lobby, who knows what other exceptions will automatically have to be made because of this precedence.
So what’s the solution for Christians like myself and those at Hobby Lobby who think abortion is wrong and who think the morning-after pill is a form of abortion?
Keep the conversation political and ethical, not religious.
We don’t need to use our religion to legislate against murder, theft or rape, even though our religion makes cases against all these things. We use ethics and then politics.
Should our religion affect how we vote and the things we legislate for and against, including abortion? Absolutely. It better or else you need to check your heart. Your faith in Christ ought to affect everything you do, from the use of your recycle bin to the way you vote to types of products you buy. But you don’t need to say, “I’m against abortion because of my religion.” You choose to administer baptism a certain way because of your religion, and you have beliefs about where a person goes after they die because of your religion, but neither of those subjects will be on the voting docket anytime soon. Abortion, on the other hand, is already a huge hot button political issue with very strong ethical, moral and scientific arguments against it. We have made our side for argument way smaller than it needs to be by only allowing religious people in and by standing behind “religious beliefs” as our reason being against abortion, instead of using arguments non-religious people would be apt to be convinced of as well. The case Hobby Lobby should be making isn’t that their religious freedom is being violated by this being forced on them, it’s that whether religious or not, their American democracy rights are being violated!
It’s scary to think of what crazy exceptions religious groups could make for their employees if they were allowed to, exceptions that would be abusive and harmful. We can’t just hand out “Religion Cards” and let people do whatever they want, as the results would be disastrous.
In the same breath, it is equally scary to think that our government can take a polarizing hot button issue like abortion and force business owners to do what the government tells them on such a high-emotion issue that is split 50/50 across our country–which I write more about in this parallel post: The Scariness of Governmental Power in the Hobby Lobby Abortion Case
*Footnote: I know Hobby Lobby also isn’t covering IUD’s for their employees. From what I’ve read, I would not consider an IUD an abortion, though I’m certainly not an expert in this field and am open to more info on that subject. So while I don’t support that part of Hobby Lobby’s stance, I definitely support their stance of not having to provide the morning-after pill, which I do consider an abortion.
I think, though, that many of these problems will be resolved in a free market. If I’m looking at a couple potential employers and one offers free abortions and the other does not, and I really want to get my abortions for free, I’ll pick the company that offers coverage. If I’m a Christian who abhors abortion, or a non-religious person but have no interest in getting an abortion, then I may opt for a company that can pay me more money by not offering unnecessary health coverage.
The same argument works for any religious foundation at the owner level. If there’s a JW company that offers health coverage lacking things like blood transfusions, I may look for another employer. The important thing in the Hobby Lobby debate is that the government is requiring people who don’t want to kill children to pay for the killing of those children. These children will never have an option to pick an employer who will let them live.
If a Muslim employer wants to offer time for prayer throughout the day and provides Muslim holidays instead of Christian holidays, then that should be noted as part of the employment agreement and I can make the decision as to whether or not I want to work there.
Americans are starting to get the impression they’re entitled to a job that offers all their health coverage for free and a cell phone and high pay and lots of vacation. We need to get back to “hard work = money” and anything more than that is a “benefit” which the employer provides on top of the wages earned. Then as an American, I can find a job that pays me fairly for my benefit to the company. I am owed nothing by any company except what I agreed to take as a wage for hours worked. During that time, I’m going to work hard and try to add great value.
Noah Filipiak says
Thanks Jeremy, your points are very helpful to this discussion. Definitely goes back to root argument of whether insurance should have to be offered by employers or not, which is the larger conversation that is over the Hobby Lobby one. I like your points. As I think about them, I think a challenge to them could be for the person who doesn’t have the freedom or flexibility to have much say in where they work. Someone who is well educated and skilled will have more job choice and mobility, whereas someone who is less educated and less skilled is more likely getting stuck working where they work and are at the mercy of their employer at this case–prone to potential abuse/oppression. There surely are some people who can and should work harder, go to school, try harder, etc., but also many due to systemic reasons simply never had the opportunity to do so and thus are now permanently underdeveloped. Super complex, that is for sure.
Anyone here familiar with Uterine Fibroids???? I’ll let the medical research speak to the scariness of the SCOTUS’ decision, as well as to those who feel their opinion overrides GYNs’ suggested treatment for symptoms associated with Uterine Fibroids. Start here if you’d like http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000914.htm, or search “IUDs uterine fibroids NIH.”