Monday, July 7, 2014

Hobby Lobby and selective guilt

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge Dan Carpenter
  • Dan Carpenter

As a going concern in contemporary America, Hobby Lobby does business with all sorts of companies, organizations, countries and individuals whose practices are inimical to Christian beliefs as Hobby Lobby’s owners define them.

They buy from China, where forced abortion is government policy. They use oil from dictatorships that would not dream of permitting the sort of free expression Hobby Lobby (and co-litigant Conestoga Wood Specialties) petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold.

They no doubt have dealt with countless suppliers, and have served countless customers, who practice non-Christian religions, sleep with people of the same sex, follow the Affordable Care Act to the letter and vote straight Democratic.

Oh, and by the way, Hobby Lobby’s employee retirement plan has investments in contraceptive manufacturing.

And how can you avoid such entanglements? Even the survivalists who claim sovereignty over some patch of Texas or Idaho have to buy their pickup trucks and ammunition from the global network of shared guilt.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, like me, are about as pure as the driven snow in back of the asphalt plant when it comes to economic “morality.” We’re all complicit. How the high court could miss that reality is every bit as perplexing as its more glaring proposition that an abstract convenience called a corporation can have protected religious beliefs.

Provided the corporation is not too big, that is. How big is too big? Well, let’s just say not too big to fail to provide certain employees, thousands of them, certain benefits to which the law says they have equal rights. Personal corporations, if you will.

So the court’s majority limits the seismic ruling to some corporations, without really specifying who’s in. It limits its finding to women’s reproductive health (Hobby Lobby covers vasectomies), without addressing the long list of other medical procedures that raise somebody or other’s religious objections, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her scathing dissent. Blood transfusions. Vaccinations. Men and women working in the same room. Women working.

Finally, the court accepts the fatuous notion that engaging in commerce in 2014 can be limited in terms of political or moral taint. I stick a knife in Mother Earth every time I gas up my Toyota, and yet somehow Hobby Lobby operates in an impenetrable bubble of integrity?

This court will do whatever it takes to side with corporations in these confrontations between people and power – not Obama socialist power, but financial power. The embarrassing sloppiness of this ruling and its rationale, especially when held up against Ginsburg’s litany of what-ifs, affirms the allegiance. The perverse transfer of religious freedom from individuals to their bosses ices the cake. And the implications for both are anybody’s guess. The court majority may insist it built a little box; lawyers everywhere must infer it opened Pandora’s.

Next year, religion takes front and center with the same-sex marriage issue. The court is widely expected to concur with the 20-plus lower court rulings in favor. Corporations – large ones – generally like marriage equality and did not share Hobby Lobby’s sexual hang-ups on health care. Assuming they continue the corporate world’s winning ways, and then Hobby Lobby fires an employee for marrying his boyfriend . . . oh, tell me you wouldn’t buy a ticket for that one.

Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer, a contributor to Indianapolis Business Journal and the author of “Indiana Out Loud.”

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