The Supreme Court heard arguments today on a case brought by the owners of Hobby Lobby related to that business having to provide family planning contraceptives to its 13,000 employees. On its face, this seems like a “religious freedom” versus “government protection of the individual” issue and that’s what many of the commentators are talking about. However the real issue at hand, one that is largely missed in the media commentary is a far more core principle to our democracy and where it’s headed. That is the continued personification of corporate entities in America. In large part, that started after the Citizens United where the Court in its infinite wisdom ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations. This idea that corporations deserve the protections of the Constitution surely would have been ludicrous to our Founding Fathers.
Now, with the Hobby Lobby case, the Court is being asked to further increase the personification of corporations by allowing the owners of Hobby Lobby to dictate what parts of the ACA they will follow and what parts they will not. The owners of Hobby Lobby are free to not provide insurance to their employees but they know this would be a huge mistake. Instead, they hope to appeal to the Supreme Court that their religious freedoms are being infringed. However, their freedoms are not the ones at stake here. They are still free to stand against the contraceptives they apparently so abhor. But it is not their freedoms being infringed because they contract with a third party, namely an insurance company, to provide insurance to Hobby Lobby employees. Nothing in the passage of the ACA infringes on their own ability to stand against and/or not use these contraceptives. That is the core issue. By confounding the religious freedoms of the owners of Hobby Lobby with protections that will be conferred on the corporation Hobby Lobby we go farther down the path of empowering corporations which undermines the democracy our government relies on.
I have no real hunch on how this will play out but we are already rapidly becoming an oligarchy run by the financial elite on Wall Street. Money plays a huge part in politics and the Citizens United case only upped the ante. To grant Hobby Lobby the right to circumvent pieces of a Congressionally created law is a further removal of rights from the people. The continual transferal of those rights to the rich and the powerful will cause problems we can’t possibly expect.