Tuesday, July 01, 2014
I own a marketing company. I'm Jewish. My partner is Italian and Christian. Of our almost fifty employees, our cultural and religious make-up is quite diverse. We are a company of people. The company itself is not a person. So what's our religion? Whose religious beliefs should trump those of all others? Mine? My partner's?
The United States Supreme Court issued a highly controversial decision this week involving Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain, and Conestoga, a cabinet making company, ruling that "closely held" companies can, based on the strong religious beliefs of their owners, refuse to provide certain contraceptives at no cost to their employees. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: "Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga ... protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies." The court essentially gave legal precedent to Mitt Romney's preposterous 2011 assertion that companies are people too, and therefore have the same rights as individuals.
"The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield," wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her minority opinion of the 5-4 decision. "Can an employer in business for profit opt out of coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations, antidepressants, or medications derived from pigs, based on the employer's sincerely held religious beliefs opposing those medical practices?" she added.
Exactly. Just where is the new line drawn? How far can business owners twist this ruling to deny their employees health care? Can Christian Scientists refuse some basic medical coverage altogether? Can Jews refuse to cover medical procedures that occur on the Sabbath? What about those business owners whose personal religious beliefs are based on strict interpretation of the Bible? Can they therefore deny coverage to homosexuals? Adulterers? Atheists? (all of whom, by the way, should be killed according to various passages in the Bible).
So what is my company's religion? My company doesn't have one. My right, on any conceivable level, to force my personal religious beliefs on my employees disappeared the nanosecond I signed our Limited Liability Company (LLC) documents that would serve to insulate me as an individual from legal and financial claims against the company. Signing those documents created a distinct, legal firewall between my company and me personally, my religious beliefs and, more importantly, my ability to impose them on my staff. I gave up that "right" (assuming I ever had it, which is debatable), as soon as I sought the government's and the court's protection as an individual. I can't have it both ways. Nor can Hobby Lobby, Conestoga or any other "closely held" for-profit company. The Supreme Court's ruling is misguided and convoluted.