If you have paid any attention to the political scene in America lately, you will proabably have heard about Obamacare, as it is colloquially known, or the Affordable Care Act. It has been making waves for a number of political reasons, but a key religious freedom argument has arisen from it. Hobby Lobby has sued the governement (or actually Kathleen Sebelius who is the Secretary of Health and Human Services) over being forced to provide contraception that they, and the FDA, have deemed could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall, which is “technincally” an abortion and against Steve Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby, and his family’s Christian beliefs.
In this article from Religion News Services, they discuss not only Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which is being heard by the Supreme Court this month, but also Steve Green’s religion. The first oral arguments are scheduled to be heard March 25th. For years, even before the mandate was sent out, Hobby Lobby has been providing 16 of the 20 FDA approved contraception methods as part of their insurance plan. They merely have an issue with the others, specifically IUD’s and pills like the Plan B pill. There grounds are that these could technically result in an abortion, and since abortion is against their Christian beliefs, they should not be required to pay for it. What the case really boils down to, in my opinion, is does Hobby Lobby as a corporation have the same protection under the First Amendment as a person.
There is no doubt that Hobby Lobby, much like Chick-fil-a is an overtly Christian company. Not only are they closed on Sunday, but on their Hours sign, for Sunday it says “Closed Sunday to allow employees time for family and worship”, but they also refuse to do business with companies that promote alcohol. The Green Family Foundation is even opening a Bible Museum in Washington DC that will display thousands of ancient texts. There is no denying that the Hobby Lobby Corporation as a whole is clearly an overtly Christian Corporation and should be afforded the same rights as a person.
When we were reading Albanese’s book, we also discussed in class how the first amendment in America was unlike anything that had ever been done before. There was to be a complete distinction between the religion in America and the government in America. The question this case is raising, is how far does the protection given in the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. Hobby Lobby is claiming that the government forcing them to pay for things that violate their religion is a breach of the Free Exercise Clause, specifically “Congress shall make no law [...] prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
The reason Hobby Lobby might have a chance is that Hobby Lobby is filed as a Closely Held Corporation. This means that they are owned by a few select individuals, which in the case of Hobby Lobby, and in most Closely Held Corporations, is almost entirely members of the Green family. This basically means that even though it is a large corporation, it is still a family owned business, and since the family members are the people who are liable for the company, they technically are the company.
No matter what way this turns out, it will be a landmark case in the religious freedoms in America at this time. Be sure to look out in the coming future about the results of this case.