Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Drawing On A New Hobby

(Cartoon by Rogers published 12/3/13 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and found here.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The War on Women continues apace.  The latest battle is at the Supreme Court as arguments were heard on the issue of whether an employer of a non-religious corporation could refuse to include contraceptives in the health insurance provided employees.  The owners of these businesses, I'm embarrassed to say, are some of my co-religionists who are still into the punishing the Eve in all of us.  They claim (but I don't think they really believe this) that the contraceptives are a form of abortion, and therefor evil and against their deeply held religious beliefs.

Further, they argue, the requirement that contraceptives be included in the health insurance under the ACA is an intrusion by the federal government into their religion.

I'm not buying the arguments, nor is the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times.  In the editorial published 3/25/14, the board also pointed out the danger that the employers might not have noticed in making those arguments.

From that editorial:

American law has traditionally bent over backward to accommodate individuals forced to choose between obeying the law and complying with their beliefs. If that privilege is pushed too far, public support for accommodating religious objections could erode.

Two principal issues will be argued Tuesday: Can a for-profit business claim a religious exemption from the mandate under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act? And does the requirement that employers provide contraceptive coverage impose a "substantial burden" on their exercise of religion? Under the law, such a burden is permissible only in pursuit of a compelling government interest and only if the law is narrowly tailored.

The first question is easily answered. It isn't just, as a federal appeals court in Philadelphia pithily put it, that businesses "do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiously-motivated actions." It is that business corporations are legal entities distinct from the individuals who create them. As the Obama administration persuasively argues, the owners of Hobby Lobby aren't entitled to an exemption for their businesses "based on their individual religious beliefs."

But even if moneymaking corporations were to be viewed as religious believers, the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate isn't a substantial burden on their exercise of religion. The mandate doesn't require an employer to do anything more than make it possible for a female employee to decide for herself whether to use contraceptives.   [Emphasis added]

The arguments made on behalf of the employer relied heavily on the First Amendment freedom of religion clause.  The freedom of religion rights of the female employees apparently don't matter.  And, of course, their right to choose didn't come up, even with the Roe v Wade still being the law (at least for the time being).  Once again, given the current make-up of the Court, it will be a close decision, with Justice Kennedy probably being the swing vote. 

We certainly do live in interesting times.


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