Taking liberties with religion

Taking liberties with religion

Obamacare forces religious believers to act in ways contrary to their faith. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide if that is permissible.

Fixing the Affordable Care Act website is proving to be a bigger problem than President Barack Obama predicted. Plus, the courts haven't yet completed their constitutional reviews.

Abandoning his administration's Nov. 30 deadline for online enrollment of small businesses seeking employee health insurance coverage, President Obama has thrown in the towel.

The president Wednesday announced a yearlong delay in online enrollment and indicated small businesses can sign up through an agent, broker or directly through an insurance company. Small businesses have been filling out paper applications.

Needless to say, this is another unfathomable setback for the HealthCare.gov website that went public Oct. 1 and almost immediately went off the rails. Even more embarrassing, the announcement came three days after federal officials promised a smooth enrollment for businesses and individuals trying to access the website.

That's a bureaucratic issue. The struggle to implement Obamacare also is underway in the courts, where private institutions are challenging the government's effort to force those who oppose birth control to pay for it.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear cases involving employers who object, for religious reasons, to being required to pay for their employees' birth control.

Hobby Lobby, a Oklahoma-based company founded on religious principals, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania company with Mennonite owners, have challenged the mandate. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby while the 3rd Circuit Court in Philadelphia ruled against Conestoga, leaving the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court to settle the dispute.

Religious-based objections to some Obamacare mandates deserve serious consideration. In our view, it's only slightly less outrageous for the Obama administration to force employers who have religious objection to financing employees' birth control than it is for the Obama administration to push a similar requirement on the Catholic Church. Both efforts represent an assault on the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

The issue, however, is complicated. Hobby Lobby, whatever religious beliefs drove the founding of the enterprise, is a corporation, and one of the legal questions to be resolved is whether a corporation has a legal right to freedom of religion.

Various pundits are making conflicting predictions of how the court will rule. But the unvarnished fact is that no one will know until the court decides.

Its 5-4 ruling last year to uphold the constitutionality of the individual mandate by calling the penalty for not purchasing insurance a tax promises another spirited disagreement.

However, the high court has a long history of going out of its way to protect the liberty of religious groups to engage in behavior that conflicts with the law. Among those decisions are those allowing ritualistic animal sacrifices and use of illegal drugs as part of religious ceremonies.

The Obama administration has argued that business owners' religious beliefs are irrelevant to mandates forced on the businesses, in effect establishing a legal separation between what people believe and what they can be required to finance. Opponents of the mandate says the two concepts go hand in hand and are indivisible.

Now the Supreme Court will decide which of those opinions has the imprimatur of settled law.


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Sid Saltfork wrote on November 29, 2013 at 8:11 am

The companies sell their products in the public sector.  Just as they cannot discriminate in hiring, and promotions based on race, gender, ethinicity, and religion; they cannot pick and choose what they will pay for under a standard insurance benefit plan.  Religion should not enter into commerce, or politics.  There is a separation of state, and religion.  However; I suspect that politics, and greed enter into it more than religion. 

Maybe, all of the Beaders are religious consevatives?

Sancho Panza wrote on November 29, 2013 at 8:11 am

Hobby Lobby is not a government entity; it is part of the private sector.

Of course corporations should have religous freedom. Nearly every religious group is registered as a corporation.

Local Yocal wrote on November 29, 2013 at 2:11 pm
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Out of serious ignorance, I have to ask:

1) Can Hobby Lobby hire only Christians?

2) Can Hobby Lobby sell to only Christians?

3) Can Hobby Lobby fire an employee for having pre-marital, recreational sex after work in the privacy of a property that is not owned by Hobby Lobby?

4) How come birth control can be defined as healthcare? Is birth control considered healthcare because it protects against infectious diseases (in the case of male birth control)? How is it the pill is considered healthcare?

5) If a female employee has a pregnancy outside of wedlock, is Hobby Lobby freed from any health insurance obligations regarding the pregnancy and maternity-leave obligations? Can Hobby Lobby fire the employee who got pregnant out of wedlock?

6) Can Hobby Lobby require its employees to attend church, or take the sacraments?

7) Can Hobby Lobby bar entrance to its store anyone who is non-christian?

Not trying to be smart alecky, I really am this stupid....how far goes these corporate, private religious rights?

If the answers are obvious, then it should be a 9-0 slam dunk, hang on the rim decision for the Supreme Court, but No. 4 is the tough one I would think,....

rsp wrote on November 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm

#4. The pill is used for more than just preventing pregnancy. It's also used to treat some medical conditions but the argument being used is that it causes abortions. If I believe it causes abortions and that is against my religion that's the end of the story.

It doesn't have to be true. Just so long as I can impose my beliefs onto you. What if it was blood transfusions, vaccinations, or putting broken bones in casts? Who has the right to stand between you and your doctor and decide what medical care you should have? Think it's okay for your employer to decide? And when the company changes hands?

Local Yocal wrote on November 30, 2013 at 4:11 am
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"Who has the right to stand between you and your doctor and decide what medical care you should have?"

The answer to your very good question The News-Gazette (one of the old fart editorialists) and Hobby Lobby seem to be suggesting is the person who owns the property and pays the paycheck can decide whether it will be they who picks up the tab for any "medical services" as part of an employment agreement. The Supreme Court is asked to decide: are employers allowed to determine what the pay is, and determine exactly what the health coverage is going to be for their own employees. It's been mixed in with freedom rights to do what you please with your own.

The Affordable Healthcare Act has done a big reach, (similar to what happened in Alabama over integrated schools, similar to minimum wage laws, similar to child labor laws, similar to the 8-hour workday,) that certain medical conditions must be covered by a private employer.

The question for me, is birth control equivalent to other basic rights we've come to understand as sensible. I'm sure there was some thought put into why birth control was part of the mandated coverage. I guess we'd have to pass the bill to find out what's in it, eh?

Would female employees have to show medical evidence that they are using the pill for a medical condition and not just preventing a pregnancy for Hobby Lobby to be obligated to foot the bill for the pill? (You'd think it would be to Hobby Lobby's economic advantage to have female employees not pregnant and not raising infants and toddlers.)

As always with questions of discriminatory practices, the law can only put a surface prohibition onto what goes on between the ears of an employer anyway.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on November 30, 2013 at 6:11 am
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Anyone care to guess the identities/sectarian affiliations of the authors?


The religious affiliation of N-G ownership has historically not been emphasized on its banner. Why not?  Could this affiliation perhaps influence news reportage?

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 30, 2013 at 10:11 am

Gee, are they Southern Baptists?  Whether they are Baptist, Methodist, Sunni, or Catholic; there are groups of people in each religion that are ultra-conservative.  I would agree that in contemporary times the News Gazette appears ultra-conservative in it's views.  We know how you feel about Catholics.  Let's not go onto that topic.  

The issue is whether a corporation can have it's religious view trumping a solution to a national problem.  The Supreme Court did state that a corporation was the same as a person in campaign donations.  This case involves greed, and politics more than religion.  If the employer can decide what it will, or will not cover in a basic group insurance policy; it can decide that only members of it's religion will be hired.

"Cost plus 10% discount for fundamentalist Christian Beaders during the holidays! "