The Hobby Lobby lawsuit that went before the U.S. Supreme Court last week is an interesting and complex look at an important legal issue.
On the surface, the case is about religious freedom vs. a government mandate. In this case, the ultra-religious owners of the craft chain Hobby Lobby are opposed to having to offer four kinds of birth control methods in their insurance plan as mandated by ObamaCare. The owners don’t oppose all forms of birth control, just four types that they consider to be akin to abortion. Providing those forms of birth control violate their religious freedom, the owners claim in their legal challenge.
But that raises these questions: Can a corporation, like individuals, have “religious freedom?” Does a corporation — as a legal entity — reflect any religious viewpoint?
If so, how is that viewpoint arrived at; is it the view of the person who owns the most stock? The CEO? The corporate president?
And when a corporation engages in public commerce, shouldn’t it have to follow the same rules as all other corporations?
Granting a corporation the right of conscience in a manner that has in the past only been applied to individuals would be a huge broadening of the law and could have a host of unintended consequences.
For example, if a corporation can express religious views in its policies, how would that work in the real world? What if a corporation owned by ultra-right Protestants said hiring Jews violated its religious views, would that kind of discrimination be allowed? Or what about corporations owned by Catholics who oppose all kinds of birth control?
Once the door is open for corporate entities to hold religious views, corporate owners could claim all kinds of religious exemptions to existing laws.
Another aspect of this is the fact that Hobby Lobby doesn’t have to offer health insurance to its employees; it could pay the federal fine and let employees buy whatever kind of insurance they want in the open market. So is the company really being “forced” to offer a coverage that its owners object to?
On the other hand, why should the government dictate what items are covered in health insurance? Shouldn’t that be the decision of the marketplace as businesses seek out the coverage they want to offer their employees? If the owners of Hobby Lobby don’t want to offer birth control, shouldn’t they have the right to seek out a policy that doesn’t cover that? Moreover, is birth control really “health care,” or a life choice?
There’s no doubt that the ObamaCare mandate that all health insurance policies cover birth control stems from years of political activists who consider birth control a public right, not a choice. Including that mandate was as much about appeasing a Democratic political constituency, as it was health care.
There are no clear “good guys” in this debate.
ObamaCare is an overwrought social welfare expansion that will do nothing to lower health care costs or expand individual access to health care.
But insurance companies asked for the mandates because of their own ill-advised policies, greed and actions that denied coverage for those that cost them too much. What is health insurance for if not those health problems that are critical? And with ObamaCare, many insurance firms joined the bandwagon because they thought it would generate more business for them, the larger consequences be damned.
As for individuals, we get what we vote for. We voted for a liberal president and Congress and too many of us support the idea that government should take care of us from cradle to grave through a variety of welfare programs.
Although I doubt that it’s legally possible for a corporation to have religious views as argued by Hobby Lobby in the recent Supreme Court hearing, like a lot of companies, the firm is caught up in this drama through no fault of its own.
The owners of Hobby Lobby may not know what’s best for birth control, but then neither does the government.
Although it’s probably doomed because of self-interest, Barrow County Board of Education member Will Dunn deserves a pat on the back for his call to decrease the size of that board from its nine current members.
The reality is, having over five members on any kind of public board is asking for problems. Groups larger than that become unwieldy and flaccid. That’s because group dynamics in the decision-making process get more difficult with larger numbers.
I know that some on the Political Right disagree with that idea. More representation is better, they say, claiming larger groups bring government closer to the people.
But that’s wrong. Larger groups are more dysfunctional.
Exhibit A: Congress.
The Barrow BOE may be the largest board of education in the state. It’s certainly the largest in this area.
Has that made the Barrow County School System a stellar example of education achievement?
Has that improved standardized test scores?
Has that created a system with a high level of achievement in both academics and extracurricular activities?
If having a bigger BOE is better, then the BCSS ought to be the shining star of public schools in the state rather than the middling system with average results.
I’ve said it before: Local BOEs make very few important decisions in Georgia. Most critical system decisions are, by law, in the hands of the state or local administrators.
The most important decision a BOE makes is hiring the superintendent and what high-quality superintendent wants to have to deal with nine egos on his or her board?
Dunn is right, the Barrow BOE is too large to be effective. And really, who in Barrow County except for the nine incumbents would really ever notice or care if the BOE were cut down to five members?
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of the Barrow Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.