Hobby Lobby, ACA, and Religious Rights

Every time Sarah Palin opens her mouth I get a strong desire to kick John McCain square in the balls.

Sure, maybe McCain wasn’t directly responsible for choosing her, but in his desperation to win he looked at Palin and thought, “Feisty, kinda hot, young.  This is exactly what I need to win this election.”  Had he bothered to look a little closer, maybe actually listen to her, check out her record, do a little more vetting, she never would have gotten the national exposure that she has and American politics would be slightly better than they are right now.  She does a wonderful job of spinning up the muck without doing much in the way actually providing solutions.

McCain and his team moved the rock she was hiding under and now it’s too late to put the rock back.  For that, I will never forgive him.

Which is kind of a pity, because he seems like a decent guy and, had he been the nominee in the 2000 elections instead of smilin’ George Bush, I would have happily voted for McCain.  Problem is, Bush had the mad genius Rove in his corner and Rove had no problems with winning at all costs.  If that meant robo calling people in the deep South and leaving messages that implied McCain had a child with a black woman out of wedlock, well, that’s just how politics is these days.

Now we’ve got Sarah Palin setting up the structure for political debate, a style more analogous to childish name calling than any actual debate.  The problem is, thanks to McCain, she now has a voice and people listen to her when talks about things like “Obama’s Death Panels.”  It’s easy, with such punchy rhetoric, think Obama is personally out to kill your grandparents while completely ignoring the fact that insurance companies have had such panels for decades.  If it’s not economically feasible for an insurance company to treat you guess what’s going to happen.

So, the Affordable Care Act, derisively referred to as “Obamacare,” was pitched as a way to rein in healthcare costs and prevent some of the insurance company abuses that have plagued the industry for so long.  The original pitch said it was going to change everything and make it all better.  There are elements of the law that are good: no longer being able to deny people coverage based on pre-existing conditions is a pretty good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

Problem is, the ACA was hammered pretty hard in the beginning by people like Sarah Palin and other industry shills and, after concession after concession just to get the damned thing passed, we wound up with a law that has holes you can drive a Mack truck through.  Take a look at the recent Supreme Court decision to let Hobby Lobby decide what types of birth control they will pay for, based solely on religious preference.

People, over the past few days, have been pointing a lot of fingers at Hobby Lobby and screaming about how they’re denying contraceptives to their employees.  This is not, strictly speaking, accurate.  Hobby Lobby does cover contraceptives, they just don’t want to cover what they consider abortifacients because they feel that would be supporting abortion and, according to their religious beliefs, that would be wrong.

The owners of Hobby Lobby have some pretty strong beliefs and I’m not here to tell them they’re wrong to have those beliefs.  Personally, I don’t care what they believe.  I usually don’t shop at Hobby Lobby, anyway, so whatever the owners choose to believe is fine with me.  Before everyone gets up in arms and starts screaming about religious freedom, let me be clear: I don’t shop at Hobby Lobby because I think their model kits are over priced, not because of their religious beliefs.

Still, though, that begs a little digging into religious rights.  This is a term that’s been thrown around a lot lately and it usually comes attached with a rider.  “My religion says gay marriage is a terrible thing, and to make me think otherwise is a violation of my religious rights,” or “My religious beliefs say any kind of contraception other than keeping their legs closed will lead women down the path to harlotry.”

It seems like every time I hear someone talking about their religious rights they’re using it as an excuse to take rights away from someone else.

Back to the Hobby Lobby debacle, though.

What should be concerning to people isn’t the fact that Hobby Lobby’s executives don’t want their insurance plan to cover abortifacients.  That’s kind of a given considering their religious beliefs.  What should be concerning is just how porous the law really is that a small handful of people can get uptight about something and the Supreme Court will side with them, potentially over the wishes of a larger group of people that are actually being affected by the law.

My worry, and mind you this is just my opinion, is that this opens the door to all kinds of religious rights claims.  Does your religion hate gays?  Well, the Supreme Court may well back you on that.  Does your religion say women shouldn’t work?  There’s a chance, slim though it may be, that the Supreme Court will back you.

These are extreme examples, of course, and probably wouldn’t come to pass.  However, any time we start allowing a minority with a strongly held opinion to change the rules for everyone else to suit that opinion, it should be worrisome.

“Well, what about gay marriage?” some will cry.  “That’s a minority changing the rules for everyone else?”

To those people I will say the difference is no one is forcing anyone to get a gay marriage.  The recent Supreme Court decision, while not the end of the world, is forcing a change on others.

Now, why is it not the end of the world?  Most of the contraceptives that Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to pay for are available elsewhere.  Planned Parenthood, for instance.  So, while I’m not terribly happy about the Supreme Court’s decision, especially considering the vote fell pretty much along party lines, the ruling, in and of itself, isn’t the end of the world.

Of course, the folks that run Hobby Lobby are cut from the same cloth as those who are busy trying to get rid of Planned Parenthood.

What is frightening is how the Supreme Court is calling this a narrow ruling that applies to a minority of businesses, mainly closely held private businesses.  Most small to medium sized companies in this country are closely held, and this just opened the door for all of them to claim a religious bent on something they don’t particularly care for.

I have noticed, over time, that those who would happily push their religion on others get pretty snippy when other religions do the same to them.  So, all of you who are celebrating this as an aspect of religious freedom had best be forewarned that there are other religions in this country, and this ruling just opened the door for them to start pulling the same kinds of shenanigans.  Religious freedom in this country, after all, includes all religions, not just yours.

Bottom line: there’s probably not much anyone can do at this point and, hopefully, the ruling will be overturned as soon as it starts being abused by those who would deny you freedom so that they can better live up to their religious ideals.

In the interim, you might want to consider throwing some money at Planned Parenthood.  They’re going to become more and more important as rulings like this continue.

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