A slight majority of RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents disagrees with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week that requiring two for-profit corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception as mandated by the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.
The challenge to the contraceptive coverage requirement was brought by two family-owned businesses whose owners say they operate by Christian principles: Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts-and-crafts stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a maker of wood cabinets.
The families that own the firms object to four of the 20 kinds of contraceptives that ACA regulations say employers’ health plans must provide at no cost to their female employees.
Writing for the majority in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to closely held for-profit corporations run on religious principles. RFRA prohibits the government from imposing a substantial burden on individuals’ ability to act in accordance with their religious beliefs unless there is a “compelling governmental interest” and the mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Less restrictive means, he noted, could include the government itself paying for free birth control or requiring insurance companies to provide the coverage, as it has to accommodate certain non-profit religious organizations.
In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the court never before had extended religious-freedom protections to “the commercial, profit-making world.” She added that this “expansive notion of corporate personhood … invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.”
Alito noted that neither of the plaintiffs was a publicly traded company and wrote that “it seems unlikely that (publicly held) corporate giants … will often assert RFRA claims.” But the majority left unclear whether its ruling would apply to all for-profit corporations.
More than 60 percent of Snap Poll respondents say for-profit businesses should not be exempt from provisions of federal law to which they object based on the owners’ religious beliefs. A Snap Poll conducted last December, shortly after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the cases, produced a similar result.
Roughly 900 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted July 7 and 8.
Do you agree or disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows closely held businesses to choose, based on their owners’ religious beliefs, what forms of contraception their health plans will cover under the Affordable Care Act?
In general, should for-profit businesses be exempt from provisions of federal law to which they object, based on the owners’ religious beliefs?
If every company with an opinion, prejudice or religious preference could opt out of a federal rule, we will have chaos. The people who own those companies should follow their own beliefs and not impose them on others, especially when concerning health.
—Roslyn Bakst Goldman
People “have rights,” not corporations. I will believe a corporation is a person when I see that Texas has executed one.
—Ruth S. Young
I disagree with decisions this court has made that extend “personhood” status to corporations.
The Supreme Court got it exactly right! Does anyone remember that religious freedom was one of the main reasons people came to this country? Then they fought a bloody Revolutionary War because of taxation without any say? It’s 1776 all over again. Today we are being told what to do by the imperial president and the atheist minority! Remember something: Company-paid health plans were (and are) a generous benefit many employers offer. It’s their money, and they should be able to decide if they want to pay for procedures that are controversial and even elective. Sorry, folks, if you want to kill your unborn child, then pay for it yourself!
—George Thomas, Ogden
Citizens United needs to be repealed to make it clear that corporations are not people and, therefore, cannot hold religious beliefs.
Finally a step in the right direction for the people in this country who run their businesses with family values.
—Eric Schmidt, Kaplan-Schmidt Electric Inc.
This goes to the heart of separation of church and state.
“Closely held” corporations could raise “religious” objections to many other freedoms. Where will this end? The Supremes got this one wrong.
—Tom Gillett, NYSUT
It’s scary that we are actually arguing over religious freedom, whether that argument is veiled in premise that “a corporation is not a person” or otherwise. I guess the Bill of Rights in today’s world was just a nice editorial that James Madison submitted to his local paper.
This ruling is terrible. At one point in our recent history, deeply held religious beliefs said that the races should not mix, that women had no right to vote and even today that the LGBT community should be banned from society. Should a religiously affiliated hospital have the right to refuse treatment (to) anyone that does not follow their beliefs? Can an employer fire a woman for voting (and yes, you find that information) or an employee for being in a mixed-race marriage? While at church, have you sat next to a corporation or business? Do corporations follow the Ten Commandments or even the Golden Rule?
In Justice Ginsberg’s own words, she says “had extended religious-freedom protections to the commercial, profit-making world.” This is all you need to know. It’s religious freedom that a company like Hobby Lobby wants. This is guaranteed by the Constitution, not contraception. And contraception is free at Planned Parenthood.
The owners of Hobby Lobby incorporated to gain all the rights and privileges of being a corporation and yet still believe they are entitled to all the rights and privileges of individuals. The Supreme Court has created a new class of individuals, called corporations, which have dual rights and privileges beyond all individual citizens of the United States.
Since when has birth control become a right?
If the main purpose of a business has nothing to do with promoting the owner’s religion (i.e., selling craft supplies), then the practice of their religion should not exempt them from laws applicable to other businesses.
—Joy Ryen Plotnik
If a business owners’ religious belief included prayer instead of medical treatment, would they not have to offer medical coverage?
I disagree with the result, but I have not yet read the actual decisions, so this is only a preliminary reaction. Generally, justices’ opinions are grounded in relevant precedents and deep familiarity with the Constitution, not on overbearing political preferences (which they usually are accused of).
Corporations are not people. Only people are people.
Corporations can and do have codified ethical, social and environmental principles, as often documented in formally published “corporate responsibility reports.” There are also a myriad of different funds specializing in moral or socially responsible investments. It only makes sense that these corporations should not be forced into a situation where they must purchase something that runs contrary to their core belief structures.
What hasn’t been widely published is the fact that the companies in question were objecting to the two or three “abortion-type” contraceptives, not the entire list of 20.
You cannot legislate morality. God bless Alito, and I'll be praying for Ginsburg’s poor misguided soul. How and why do we tolerate a government that rammed 16 of 20 contraceptives ... well, they required them. Did they need all 20 just to show how intolerant they can be? They have no problem with illegal aliens, selling arms that you can't own in New York to Mexican drug cartels, financing rendezvous for governors and generals, but let's not put up with some business that goes by the intimidating, hateful and hurtful name of Hobby Lobby.
Any corporation is merely an arrangement for financial purposes. Closely held or public is a choice made for financial reasons. A corporation isn't a person and not entitled to the choices a person can make.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision was correct and a small victory for America because it reinstates some sanity and logic back to the private sector. First of all, no company, individual or entity should be forced to cover government health insurance mandates. They should have the right to cover or not cover whatever combination of health benefits they so choose. Besides, Hobby Lobby is complying with 80 percent of the mandates. Also, Obamacare should be unconstitutional and is a huge overreach of personal freedom and the American economy. In 2012, the Supreme Court classified Obamacare a tax. So besides being a huge tax increase on America, Obamacare already is causing rationing, robbing senior’s Medicare to pay for Medicaid, large rate (tax) increases throughout the economy, inferior care, loss of doctors, loss of insurance, substantial increase to the national debt, etc. In fact, recent audits of the Obamacare exchanges have shown massive fraud including illegal aliens getting healthcare subsidies.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.
Freedom of religion is contained in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution because the majority of the founders felt the Constitution did not state strongly enough the need for freedom of religion. The Hobby Lobby decision basically says that freedom of religion trumps a federal statute.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.
Is there a distinction between private for-profit and publicly traded for-profit when it comes to these types of decisions? Part of the ruling should be the company needs to disclose this religion-based exemption(s) when interviewing and before hiring. These companies are willing to put themselves at a disadvantage for hiring based on their religious beliefs. If we don't agree, we as citizens have the right to not shop at Hobby Lobby and not apply for jobs there. The other concern is opening the door for other companies to reduce coverage for a variety of reasons.
This would open Pandora's Box.
—Kim Pandina, Panda Wear
Those criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court for the Hobby Lobby decision should first blame former President Bill Clinton for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law.
—Peter J. Gregory, Rochester
The ACA is a joke. Provisions are changed and manipulated on whims. Why won't this paper and others look to the apparent disregard for the law by an administration that seems most comfortable writing law and, then, rewriting what it does like or doesn't fit its political agenda.
The answer to question No. 2 is that "it depends.” If your religion is against paying income taxes, you should pay. In the case discussed here, wise judges made the right decisions. That is why we have a Supreme Court.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
Just as every employee has a right to live their life as they want and spend their earned dollars as they see fit, so does every employer who has taken the risks and invested the energy to build a business. No one is forced to work at any particular business. Each of us is free to choose where we work, which businesses we choose to support and what morals guide our lives. Business owners should be afforded the same freedoms.
—Michael Schwabl, Dixon Schwabl
Separation of church and state has been egregiously ignored. This regressive action denies more than half the voting population of the United States the right to control their own bodies. It is deeply misogynistic and totally discriminatory.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design
The Hobby Lobby decision is a constitutional disaster. I shudder to think of the "closely held beliefs" that will be brought forth: racism, sexism, homophobia to be used in future cases. The First Amendment is about one's freedom to believe, not to foist one's beliefs on others. Also, Hobby Lobby's pension portfolio includes many companies whose contraceptive products it now refuses to cover for employees. Indeed, prior to the affordable care act, Hobby Lobby covered many contraceptives. This lawsuit was about undermining President Obama, nothing more nothing less.
—C. Lewis, Perinton
Having businesses subject their employees to the owners' personal belief system(s) is paternalistic at best, and outright Machiavellian at its worst.
—Margie Campaigne, Margie's Green Home Consulting
The extension of personal rights to corporations via Citizens United and the recent Supreme Court ruling is dangerous in the extreme. What is next? Voting rights? Emancipation? Corporations are fictional persons and as such extending rights normally ascribed to actual persons is inappropriate and unbalances the constitutional separation of citizen vs. corporation vs. government. Allowing corporations to have free religious reign as opposed to freeing people from religious persecution subjects citizens to the persecution of their bosses—a terrible precedent. We will probably need a Constitutional amendment to fix the damage these five justices have done to our system of government through their reinterpretation of law.
—Lee Drake, OS-Cubed Inc.
This is a horrible ruling from a legal, religious freedom and civil/privacy rights perspective. As an owner of a closely held corporation, I don't have the right to "pick and choose" which laws I wish to follow or implement based on whether I object to one or more of the provisions of the law. As a corporate taxpayer, I may consciously object to some of the policies of the United States or the State of New York on religious grounds, but I still must pay all my taxes, which pay for those policies—or face the consequences of nonpayment. No one is forcing these owners to use the contraceptive methods they abhor, rather they, like the rest of us, are obligated by law in a civil democracy to pay for things we object to. The fact that they use their personal religious beliefs as a means to escape their obligations to their employees who may not hold those same beliefs appears to be an imposition of their religion upon their employees. To obligate publicly traded corporations to a set of different obligations, no matter the size of that corporation, is wrong and set us on a path of extreme manipulation of our laws and rights. In this specific case, Hobby Lobby's owners objected to the long term contraceptive method of IUDs. They interpret the use of this long term, reversible, but highly effective means of birth control as a form of abortion. The irony is that this method of birth control prevents abortions and its increasing use is linked to the decreasing abortion rate. So now if their interpretation and religious beliefs contradict policies and laws on evolution, environment preservation, taxation, equality of the races and genders and other issues, are they free as a closely held corporate body to opt out? Terrible split decision by the court—one which does not advance our democracy, our freedoms, our rights or our American spirit.
—Michael L. Harf
When was Hobby Lobby, the company, baptized? Is it Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Muslim, Hindu or southern Baptist? Was it created equal to men, like the Declaration of Independence requires of its citizens? Does the company have health insurance? Obamacare? Like other citizens of the United States? Does it hug, kiss and make babies (or at least goes through the procedures)? Do the employees share in the same religion? What next? Will the companies form a party (or join one) and elect us a fuehrer?
—Ingo Leubner, Crystallization Consulting
The Hobby Lobby insurance plan did cover contraceptives prior to Obamacare. What it did not cover is abortions and abortifacients, which were mandated by an Obamacare rule (not by the law). If the employees want those, they can (a) find other jobs with that coverage (b) go to Planned Parenthood or (c) pay for it themselves.
—Karen Zilora, Creative Scanning Solutions Inc.
At one time, the First Amendment required the “Rule of Law" must stand before religious beliefs. In the most extreme example, could someone in 1860 claim their right to own slaves because their Christian Bible condoned it? Today it will lead to forcing workers to live by the boss’ religious beliefs. There are those whose beliefs do not allow blood transfusions, vaccinations, etc. We now are already forced to subsidize religions for religious training in their schools and public services they receive (infrastructure, police, fire, etc.) by paying their share of taxes in violation of the First amendment. Add to that the absurd precedent that the Bill of Rights was intended to apply to artificial legal constructs, corporations, and the stage has been set for more bad law that will continue to erode democracy for us all.
—Jim Bertolone, Rochester AFL-CIO
Do we want to allow employers to be exempt of paying for health insurance that includes cancer treatment because of religious views? That is a decision the patient should make, not the employer. This has gone all the way from the government death boards scare tactic, to the corporate death boards deciding what coverage employees can have.
This decision seems like another step down the path of humanizing corporations without corresponding expansion of personal accountability.
—Jim DeLuca, Abundance Cooperative Market
Freedom of religion is a personal issue. The founders believed that no government should get between an individual and their ability to practice their religion. They also established that there can't be an official state religion. In effect, the high court gives religious preferences precedent to business owners over the rights of employees. Corporations provide health care to employees, but should have no say in how, where or when those health benefits are used. Corporations are artificial entities to protect individual owners from liabilities incurred by the corporate entities. If they are protected as a singular entity, then they cannot be allowed to pick and choose which laws and mandates they can believe in. They shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. I hope some other group researches the ruling and challenges the ruling from another angle, or the Congress passes new laws to redefine just what a corporation is or isn't.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester
I strongly disagree with the 5-4 split decision by the Supreme Court that stated closely held for-profit organizations are exempt from provisions of federal law due to the religious beliefs of its owners. I think that this decision by the Supreme Court violates the intent and purpose of the basic laws of our country—the decision is simply wrong-headed. This split decision by the Supreme Court tells me that rights and responsibilities of corporations in our society need to be reviewed and widely debated with the ultimate intent of clarifying the principle that for-profit corporations should be guided by established legal principles, not by the religious principles of their owners. This is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed starting now.
I think the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision regarding the Hobby Lobby issue has opened a Pandora's Box. I agree with the four Justices who saw serious future issues; drawing the decision "narrowly" did not make the decision more palatable.
—Carolyn Phinney Rankin, president & creative director, Phinney Rankin Inc.
First, citizens of this nation must wake up and realize how far the federal government has encroached upon our rights as established by the founders of our nation—as the result of a Constitution that, as written, severely limited government's power. The Constitution established three separate parts to the government: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. No one part could “rule” without the oversight of the others. Article I of the constitution enumerates the power and duties of the legislative branch. Article II establishes the powers of the executive branch, and Article III the judicial powers. Each is limited in their powers. Articles IV, V, VI determine how states are admitted to the union, how the Constitution shall be amended and how the Constitution shall be ratified by the states. It takes up but 4,535 words or 10 8-by-10 pages. Nowhere does it mention that the government must provide healthcare. Obamacare is an abomination and should be repealed. Consider that the legislative branch meets and to justify its existence passes law after law, whether needed or not. The first ten amendment to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, fails (and rightly so) to mention a “right” to healthcare but does mention a bit about religious and personal freedom. Unfortunately Obamacare was passed in a legitimate—though under-handed—manner in total disregard of the wishes of the people, so now it is law; one we must strive to eliminate. More power to persons such as those who own Hobby Lobby et al, they deserve this small but stunning victory.
—Michael F. Kloppel
This is an unfathomable decision with threatening long-term implications. But it does seem to prove that the Supreme Court has gone from being the ultimate respected body in the United States governance system to a group of nine ideologues who find ways to interpret "the law" to validate their own social purposes. I didn't think they were capable of a more incomprehensible decision then Citizens United, but this proves that they are.
—Alan Ziegler; Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation
My mother always said, “Don’t argue about politics or religion." Sorry, mom. Conservatives are fond of saying that government should stay out of our lives and out of our homes. However it appears they have no problem with the government interfering between religion and government when it best suits them. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga both have the option of going self-insured, but of course they don't want to be faced with huge medical bills. It is also ironic that I read somewhere that 98 percent of women have used contraceptive medication. One can assume that some of the women that work for these two companies have used contraception including the four they have a problem with. I sense a bit of hypocrisy here. I hope the ruling is someday overturned.
I object to your generalizing the Hobby Lobby decision in the way you ask Question No. 1. As I understand it, there are four forms of contraception that violate a federal law, and the Supreme Court said Hobby Lobby could omit them from its coverage. That is much more finely tuned than your statement.
Majority opposes Hobby Lobby decision
Rochester Business Journal
July 11, 2014