By: Nicole Lashomb/TRT Editor-in-Chief—
Late last month, The Supreme Court has ruled that a “closely-held” company, a for-profit corporation mostly owned by five or fewer individuals, can be exempt from the contraceptive coverage mandate provided to its female employees under the Affordable Care Act, based on its owner’s religious beliefs. Shocked and outraged by such a ruling, this is the precedent that has opened the flood gates for all sorts of religiously based discrimination to occur, disguised as religious liberty.
The 5-to-4 ruling, which applied to two companies owned by “Christian” families, opened the door to many challenges from corporations over laws that they claim violate their religious liberty. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the court ruled that corporations controlled by religious families cannot be required to pay for contraception coverage for their female workers. Not surprisingly, all 5 Justices in favor of such a reckless ruling were all Conservative men. The 4 dissenting Justices were Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsberg and Breyer, of which 3 were women, the only women sitting on the bench.
And the flood gates, indeed, are open. The day after the ruling, President Obama received a letter from fourteen religious leaders who wanted to ensure that they, too, would be exempt from being mandated to act on federal law if it conflicted with their faith. It argued that since the Hobby Lobby ruling, it is clear that the federal government should permit more deference to religious organizations that do not want to employ LGBT people due to a conflict of their religious values. [pullquote]What would happen if an employer’s religious beliefs were against blood transfusions, vaccines, or paying minimum wage? Will they also be allowed to claim religious liberty as a defense? Or is this grave “religious violation” of female contraception coverage simply an issue of convenience? Where does it stop?[/pullquote]
According to an MSNBC report, when the legal challenges against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate were first filed, they seemed destined to fail. The law already exempts houses of worship and religious non-profits, and as the 3rd Circuit explained, courts have “long recognized the distinction between the owners of a corporation and the corporation itself.” It was understood that ruling in favor of “a for-profit corporation [to] engage in religious exercise” would “eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners.” Until now. However, it should also be noted that these same companies that are so offended based on religious values for female contraception, do allow for Viagra to be covered.
When any group of people is targeted, based on so-called religious principle or otherwise, it only allows for injustices to continue moving forward from one to the next. There is no such thing as freedom or liberty, unless we are all treated equal and fair by the law, and religious organizations. I mean really, what is next?
What would happen if an employer’s religious beliefs were against blood transfusions, vaccines, or paying minimum wage? Will they also be allowed to claim religious liberty as a defense? Or is this grave “religious violation” of female contraception coverage simply an issue of convenience? Where does it stop? As Justice Ginsberg expressed in her dissent from the ruling, “Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very risk the [Constitution’s] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”
It is a scary day in America when your boss can determine which laws apply to you and which ones can be evaded. They should be ashamed.
*Nicole Lashomb is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Rainbow Times. She holds an MBA from Marylhurst University and a bachelor’s from SUNY Potsdam University. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.