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Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court and 'religious freedom'

 |  NCR Today

It's amazing what legal arguments that medical products related to sex can generate.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, the companies that brought cases to the Supreme Court last week, believe that even though they are profit-making businesses, they exercise the rights of "religious freedom" and should be exempt from paying for employees' health insurance when it includes contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

First question: Since when do profit-making businesses exercise religious rights? Since I do not believe corporations are "persons," this seems absurd on its face.

Second question: If the court were ever to agree with Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, isn't this the first step in a dangerous slippery slope on this question?

In other words, could for-profit businesses claim a religious freedom exemption to object to some of these actions? Paying for health insurance that includes blood transfusions? Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in those. Paying for any medication that might come from pork? Orthodox Jews object to pork. Serving gay or lesbian couples who seek flowers, a wedding cake, or whatever for their marriage? Lots of groups have religious objections here.

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Justice Elena Kagan carried it further in her line of questioning when she said, "An employer might have a religious objection to complying with sex discrimination laws, minimum wage laws, family leave laws and child labor laws, to name just a few."

And let's not forget, there were businesses who tried in the 1960s, after civil rights laws were passed, to claim their "religious freedom" to discriminate against African-Americans.

When I read the stories about the arguments before the Supreme Court in these cases, I worry that the court might actually decide in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties. I hope the justices look at the full ramifications of this case before they issue a decision.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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