published Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Hobby Lobby must defend its faith but gets demonized for it

Anthony Hahn, chief executive officer of Conestoga Wood Specialties, speaks to reporters in front of the Supreme Court in Washington on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.
Anthony Hahn, chief executive officer of Conestoga Wood Specialties, speaks to reporters in front of the Supreme Court in Washington on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

If you want to get a picture framed at Hobby Lobby, don't go there on a Sunday. It's not open.

The store loses lots of money that way, but it's the Oklahoma City craft supplies company's longstanding policy. Sunday is the Lord's day, officials have long said. Employees get the day off.

Now, some would have you believe Hobby Lobby's owners, the Green family, are just hiding behind their faith so they don't have to pay for certain abortifacient drugs for their employees under the Affordable Care Act.

They say it's just a ruse, a gimmick. But it's not so.

The Hobby Lobby case -- and a similar one involving the Mennonite Hahn family-owned Conestoga Wood Specialties company in Pennsylvania -- were combined in a case that Tuesday went before the U.S. Supreme Court for oral arguments. Justices, perhaps not surprisingly, seemed divided during the questioning.

The results in lower courts were mixed. Hobby Lobby won in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals when the court found corporations (together with their owners) have religious liberty rights. Meanwhile, Conestoga lost in the 3rd Circuit because the court found corporations (considered separate from their owners) do not have religious liberty rights.

So what the Supreme Court will consider -- in one of more than 60 lawsuits challenging what is called the ACA's contraceptive mandate -- is whether for-profit corporations have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion and whether a 1993 law signed by President Bill Clinton and backed by both parties in Congress was written to insulate religiously devout owners from laws and mandates like Obamacare.

Religious nonprofits are exempt from the mandate, with the Department of Health and Human Services explaining "it is appropriate" to consider the "effect on the religious beliefs of certain religious employers if coverage of contraceptive services were required."

The fact that the company is standing on its faith and asking to opt out of a few types of contraceptives -- the company offers 16 forms now -- is not a Johnny-come-lately idea.

Local and national coverage

"We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally [are] what we should operate our lives by ... and so we cannot be a part of taking life," said Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.

The company could forego health insurance (and pay resulting ACA taxes) and allow its employees to use the federal and state health care exchanges, but officials say offering insurance fits both with good business practices and with Hobby Lobby's religious understanding.

The case is not about contraception, though. If women want to purchase contraception, they can. Before Obamacare, 99 percent of sexually active women who wished to avoid pregnancy between 1980 and 2008 did so, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nothing can restrict that purchase.

It's about who pays. As always, follow the money.

However, if Hobby Lobby doesn't supply certain abortifacients, it can be penalized $100 per day, per employee. With more than 13,000 employees nationwide, the corporation is facing a potential fine of $1.3 million a day -- a day -- to stick to its guns.

The case determines whether we practice our faith at the pleasure of the government or whether the government serves at the pleasure of the people.

"This is a very important day in America -- a day when the religious liberties that all Americans should enjoy will be put under the microscope in the country's highest court," American Family Association President Tim Wildmon said.

Sadly, what is just as shameful as the company's owners being told they may have to violate their religious beliefs is the general demonization of individuals and companies who don't follow to the letter what President Obama and the far left want.

Hobby Lobby, to listen to opponents, is now part of the so-called "war on women," an extremist, hateful corporation that, in fact, hasn't changed its employment or business practices at all. Never mind that, in policies many businesses would envy, its base pay for full-time employees is well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and that it offers health and dental insurance and a retirement savings plan.

No, its opponents say Hobby Lobby is down there in the cauldron of horrors with churches who believe marriage is between one man and one women, with "racists" whose only crime is to disagree with the president's policies, with bakers and photographers whose moral principles compel them to tell gay couples to find other vendors for services, and with scientists whose observations and calculations assure them the earth isn't warming into a global disaster.

Tune in when June rolls around for the critical verdict.

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markpkessinger said...

Hobby Lobby is a privately held corporation, the shares of which are owned by members of the Green family. A corporation is a legal fiction, a construct, an artificial entity licensed to engage in certain kinds of business activities. The entity per se has no "beliefs." When a business is incorporated, a new legal entity is created, whose assets and liabilities are wholly separate from the personal assets and liabilities of its individual shareholders. Indeed, the primary reason business owners choose to incorporate their businesses is to protect their personal assets from the debts and liabilities of the business. Once incorporated, if, say, a customer is seriously injured as a result of some negligence on the part of the business, the corporation can be sued, but not the individual shareholders (even though, in a case where shares are privately held, it may have been those very shareholders whose actions or inactions as operators of the business led directly to the condition that resulted in a customer getting injured). This separation of interests is often referred to as the "corporate veil," and is the foundation of U.S. corporate law.

Now, the Green family, in choosing to incorporate its family business, has voluntarily created a business entity whose assets and obligations are separate and distinct from their own individual interests. (And that's a perfectly sound business decision.) But given that the Green family's individual interests and the interests of the entity in which they are shareholders are separate and distinct, they cannot claim that their religious liberty is being infringed when it is the CORPORATE ENTITY, not they themselves, that is being required to comply with a law to which the shareholders, individually, hold a religious objection.

The editorial says that the real issue is the question of "who pays." But it is NOT the Green family who is paying for health insurance coverage: it is Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., an entity in which they are shareholders. The Green family has been only too happy to avail itself of the protection provided by the "corporate veil." Yet it now claims, quite disingenuously, that if the shareholders are not permitted to SELECTIVELY pierce the corporate veil in order to impute their personal religious values onto an artificial entity chartered by the state, that their religious liberty is somehow being infringed. It is not. In short, the Green family wants to have it both ways.

Finally, when a business offers health insurance to its employees, that benefit is part of the total compensation package paid to an employee in exchange for his or her labor. Therefore, even the portion of a premium paid by en employer is really the employee's money (or in kind service, which the employee rightfully earned and is thus the employee's to use in whatever way he or she chooses (within the limits of the plan), irrespective of an employers religious convictions.

March 26, 2014 at 3:52 p.m.
librul said...

Somebody PLEASE send this up to the Supreme Court!

March 28, 2014 at 3:08 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

I was gonna add my two cents' worth but after reading markpkessinger's post I don't know how I could possibly match it, let alone add anything to it. So I'll just say....ditto to what he said!

March 28, 2014 at 12:10 p.m.
Plato said...

Hobby Lobby is a great business, I enjoy shopping there and I commend the owners for their entrepreneurship.

However when you make the decision to operate a business in the public arena you are also making a decision to comply with all laws that apply to your business. As business owners, we can't pick and choose which laws we want to comply with based on our own religious, moral, political and other beliefs.

By granting a company a waiver of a law that other competing businesses have to comply with you are starting down a slippery slope IMO.

March 28, 2014 at 7:02 p.m.
fairmon said...

People are not going to like what businesses will be forced to do with the persistent government intervention. Most will establish a healthcare reimbursement account with a set dollar amount for each employee. Employees will find and purchase their own healthcare and be reimbursed by filing a claim with the healthcare savings reimbursement account administrator.

People forget that any expense to a business is passed on to the consumer of their product or service or it reduces the amount of money used for worker wages.

Corporations were viewed as people when the ruling regarding campaign contributions was rendered, what makes this different?

The individual mandate and the employer mandate to provide healthcare coverage should concern people but most don't see an expanding government and intrusion in peoples lives and personal decisions as a problem.

What will the next tax for failure to purchase be levied against? What about a failure to vote tax? Those not voting will be taxed without exception a percent of their income. Or, should it be a flat tax?

March 29, 2014 at 7:26 a.m.
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