Monday, June 30, 2014


It drives me crazy when my children make bad choices. They're all grown now, so I don't get to choose for them, but still I think I know best. I'm probably wrong about that--they certainly think so--but it doesn't keep me from cringing when they go off in some direction that I think won't be good for them. Even though I raised them to be independent thinkers, what I think I really had in mind was independent from the idiots out there, not from me. I'd steer them straight if I could, but alas...

So it was with some sympathy that I considered Hobby Lobby's position that their metaphorical children--the employees of their closely held family business, which they founded on Christian values--should be made to do what the business owners, the metaphorical parents, felt they should do. And not just at work, but in their private lives as well. In their most private lives. (I note here that except for advising that tenderness is generally the best foreplay, I have at least stayed out of my children's bedrooms.) 

Hobby Lobby just wants for its employees what I want for my children, that is that they do what Dad, or the boss, thinks is best for them. The difference between us is that I realize I am wrong to want that, and Hobby Lobby does not. Indeed, the Hobby Lobby owners have worked themselves up into a good old fashioned stem-winding religious frenzy about the matter, saying that if they are forced to offer a health plan that pays for contraception, even if they don't foot the bill for it, they are being made to violate their religious beliefs. 

Since the ACA does not require Hobby Lobby to force-feed contraceptives to its employees, nor impose any requirement that any employee ever use any kind of contraception unless he or she wants to, the Hobby Lobby complaint must be seen, simply and nakedly, for what it is: the company owners don't want their employees going against the owners' religious beliefs. Regardless of the employee's individual religious beliefs on the subject, if any, the owners mean to make certain forms of contraception more difficult to choose by forcing their employees to pay for them out of their own pockets.

This is the same trick I tried when I used to tell my children that if they wanted to do something I didn't want them to do I wasn't going to pay for it. In the days when both their allowances and their independent financing alternatives were small, this was pretty effective. I'm not completely sure it prevented the behavior I wanted to discourage (does a parent ever really know what his children are doing?), but I do know one thing it did: it made them resent me, at least for that time and that issue. That kind of resentment builds up. Like steam. Eventually the lid blows off.

We don't like being told what to do. Hobby Lobby doesn't like being told its health plan has to include contraception coverage, even at no cost to it. And I expect none of its employees, no matter how devout, want the boss in the bedroom.

Religious freedom means not being persecuted for what you believe. It means being able to worship when and how you want. Those are the freedoms we sailed across the Atlantic in tiny wooden ships to secure. It does not, almost by definition, mean the right to tell others that they must conduct their lives in accordance with your religious beliefs. Indeed, if they are to be free to practice their own religion, or none at all, it cannot mean that.

I will spare you the legal analysis. The conservative block of the current Supreme Court is, it sufficeth to say, not actually that great at legal analysis: see, eg, campaign finance, gun ownership, voting rights, and now this case. We will be saved from them in time. Hopefully we will not have to wait for that other life in heaven they talk about. If so, maybe I'll have to start going to Hobby Lobby's church.

1 comment:

  1. Hobby Lobby's health plan pays for, and will continue to pay for 16 of the 20 contraceptive plans available. The only four that will not be covered are the "morning after drugs" like RU486. Pretty generous considering; because the last time I checked, having sex wasn't a medical nessecity.