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June 30, 2014

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Employees want the right to choose freely for themselves whether to use contraception, but some employers want the right to exert influence over their employees, so that those employees will be pushed toward accepting the employers' religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court decided that the employer's right to exert influence is more important than the employee's right to choose their own beliefs without their boss's influence.

Certainly the employers can't completely deny the use of contraception among their employees. But the employers just want influence, in the form of insurance exemptions. The employees may go right ahead and use contraception, but it will be despite their employer's nudging influence.

So basically, the employers now have the right to meddle in the spiritual concerns of their employees. It's like your boss doesn't just tell you how to do your job, but he's also like a priest teaching you about morality. And if you don't follow his priestly warnings, you might get low marks in your next performance evaluation!

John, I think you should look into this a little more. The first thing to note is that this wasn't about contraception in general, but about abortifacients (only 4 of the 20 forms of birth control that were mandated). Refusing to pay for drugs that will end the lives of human beings is not about "exerting influence," it's about not participating in something you think is evil. If you were an employer, I know you would do the same thing if, say, it were WWII and the government tried to force you to pay for the chemicals Germans were using in gas chambers.

If you refused, don't you think it would be insulting and incorrect to say this was about you "exerting influence" so that the Germans would accept your religious beliefs?

This is about people not wanting to be a party to ending the lives of human beings. And whether or not you personally think they're human beings is irrelevant to their state of mind.

Now go back and read your comment, putting yourself in WWII in place of the employer, and you'll see how ridiculous your accusation sounds.

Employers didn't ask to be put into this position. They didn't ask to be forced to provide particularly mandated medical insurance (as if that had anything to do with their business), but once they're forced to, you're going to have to deal with their consciences and convictions. They're not robots.

If you just look at things from the employer's point of view, then you can't see how it amounts to exerting influence. But if you care about employees, then you have to try looking at the other side of the coin.

Why do employers think they embody their company? The employees are an important part of the company. So it's not as if the employer pays for insurance, but it's the company as a whole that pays. And the employees are part of the company. In most companies, the employees generate most of the revenue.

So you should look at the Germans' side of the coin? They want their free death-causing chemicals! Should the government force you to pay for them? Why don't you care about fulfilling their desire to kill people? You're heartless!

That's the only relevant point here. And again, it's irrelevant if you disagree with their viewing of abortifacients as killing human beings. The fact is, that is their understanding of the situation. It's like you in the German scenario. There's no "other side of the coin" when we're talking about being forced to participate in killing people. If we can't accommodate people's consciences when it comes to this, what good are our freedom protections?

Despite that being the only relevant point in this situation, here are a couple of thoughts about your ideas about companies.

Why do owners of "closely-held" companies (which is what this decision was about) think they embody their company? Because it's their company. They set the values for that company. They're responsible for that company. They direct that company. It's theirs. The employees sell their labor to the company. They're part of what makes the company work, but that doesn't mean the money of the company belongs to them. What belongs to them is the salary they receive for selling their labor at an agreed-upon price.

In your scenario, if you hire landscapers to take care of your yard, that makes them part owners of your house. That's obviously false. You bought their labor as part of your taking care of your own house. You own all of the house, despite the fact that value was added to your house through the labor they sold to you.

Wow, if you say there's no "other side of the coin," that suggests you don't think workers using contraception are even human. There's no way we can compromise with these monsters. They're just like Nazis.

On the other hand, do owners really own 100% of their companies? Do owners own their employees too? Can business owners control every aspect of their employees' personal lives? I can see bosses controlling the working life, but not the personal life outside of the workplace.

If you hire landscapers, they don't own part of your house, but they definitely do own part of the landscaping deal you made with them. That's what a company is, a business deal between investors, workers, customers and the general public. What we're arguing about here is how much control the investors (owners) should have, as opposed to how much control (rights) the other stakeholders should have.

@john,
I don't think any of this talk about employer's controlling people makes sense when this legal decision in no way stops people from access to birth control. It only says that a company isn't forced to pay for 4 of the 20 types. Employees can still go to the doctor, or drug store, and get/use whatever they want, including those 4. No company rep is going to be checking people's bathroom medicine cabinets. They just don't want to have to pay for drugs that, in their mind, kill babies. That seems quite reasonable. So to sum up...employees can not only get 16 different types of birth control on the insurance company's dime, they can also can go get 4 abortafacient types on their own if they so choose. They can even do this with the salary they make from the company. Who is being controlled?

Wow, if you say there's no "other side of the coin," that suggests you don't think workers using contraception are even human. There's no way we can compromise with these monsters. They're just like Nazis.

Are you kidding me? I was comparing a principle, not the people. The question I've asked you is, should the government force you to participate in providing the means to kill human beings?

And once again, this wasn't about contraception, this was about abortifacients, and whether or not people who think that those four drugs kill human beings ought to be forced to buy them for others.

I don't think you understand the situation, here, because you keep arguing things that have no parallel in this case. Closely held companies don't have shareholders. And anyone who appeals to RFRA has to pass two tests. From Joe's summary (which you should take a minute to read):

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability unless the government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

The Court found that forcing Hobby Lobby to comply was not the "least restrictive means" of the government accomplishing it's goal. Religion isn't an automatic trump. If the company can't be accommodated in order to achieve the government interest, then no exemption is made. In this case, as the court said, the effect on the employees (because of the accommodation that already applies to non-profits) would be zero. Therefore, there was no reason for the government to compel Hobby Lobby against their consciences.

In other words, the other side of the coin was considered by the court. But from your comments, it was clear you didn't yet understand the Hobby Lobby side of the coin. Hence, I put their objection into terms that would make sense to you. So I ask again, should the government be able to force you to participate in the killing of others because others really want you to help them do it? Forget the Nazis (that was just the only scenario I could think of that required producing chemicals others wanted to use to cause the death of human beings) and just answer the question in the abstract.

But if you care about employees, then you have to try looking at the other side of the coin. Why do employers think they embody their company? The employees are an important part of the company. So it's not as if the employer pays for insurance, but it's the company as a whole that pays. And the employees are part of the company. In most companies, the employees generate most of the revenue.

John, I find that to be a very interesting comment considering that the question at stake here is do we value all human life - including the unborn. It would be rather difficult to ask someone to value an employee (at least in the way you've described) and yet not value other human beings by promoting a woman's right to kill her children.

It's more than that. There's also a view of what sorts of actions involve participation in evil such that offering a plan covering these four contraceptive methods would amount to participating in the evil that is involved in using those devices. That's a controversial ethical claim, and it's one that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are committed to, at least in part for religious reasons. But it's distinct from the view of the moral status of the conceptus.

I think they are discriminating against non-religious employers, making them pay up when the others don't have to. It seems that in this ruling they are "establishing religion" in some sort of way.

Conscientious objection should not be tied to religion. Since the time of the Vietnam War, both religious and non religious COs were exempt from military service. Should it not be the same in this case?

Amy asked, "Should the government be able to force you to participate in the killing of others ...?" Similarly, we could ask if the government should be able to force you into participating in the killing of Iraqis during the Iraq war.

By living in a society, you are required to participate in certain group decisions, even when you disagree. You have to obey the law. You have to pay taxes. You can't have your own personal line-item veto about how the government uses your tax money.

Because if everyone had their line-item veto, our society would break down. Everyone needs to make compromises in order for us to live together in a peaceful, organized society.

Some religious extremists think their personal beliefs are more important than the community or the nation. This kind of thinking could lead to religious war, like Catholics versus Protestants in the 17th century, or Sunni versus Shiites today.

Thankfully, most people are willing to allow others their own freedom of conscience, and are willing to compromise and work together, because they value the community.

Everyone needs to make compromises in order for us to live together in a peaceful, organized society.

That's what RFRA does! In a free society, freedoms are accommodated when possible.

And this isn't about taxes or a line item veto for taxes.

Thankfully, most people are willing to allow others their own freedom of conscience, and are willing to compromise and work together, because they value the community.

And when they're not willing, we have RFRA to protect us.

John,

By living in a society, you are required to participate in certain group decisions, even when you disagree

This is called the Nuremberg defense.

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