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Berginski: Questions abound in SCOTUS ruling on Hobby Lobby

By Staff | Jul 4, 2014

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that companies like Hobby Lobby (with stores in North Dakota) – whose owners claim long-standing Christian beliefs – cannot be required to cover some forms of contraceptives for their employees.

Under the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” companies can be fined $100 per day per employee for refusing to provide comprehensive health coverage, including contraceptives. Christians have argued that some forms of contraceptives, like “the morning after pill,” are tantamount to abortion. And for the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby, it meant that not covering those contraceptives would cost them $475 million in fines.

I do like going to Hobby Lobby. I can get colored pencils, a picture frame and models of Star Trek ships at a decent price. I respect that they want to do business and stay true to their religious beliefs. And $475 million is a huge number; I wouldn’t want that to affect stores in North Dakota in any way.

But while Monday’s ruling was about contraceptive coverage, the implications go far beyond that. It sets the stage for whether or not we can legally take moral issues to court.

Monday’s ruling would put one’s right to die, which includes “pulling the plug” on patients on life support, DNRs (do not resuscitate orders, should a patient flatline), and whether or not one should vaccinate his or her kids up for protracted legal battles because they clash with one’s religious or moral beliefs. On one hand, yes, allowing someone to die can be morally wrong, and not vaccinating could pose a danger to people in the vicinity of sick children, but if that’s what patients and parents wish for then we need to respect their wishes. A legal battle should be the last thing anyone wants.

Monday’s court ruling also gives corporations the ability to not just claim a religious belief, but also opt out of any laws they think clash with that religious belief. Essentially, it cements the idea that corporations can be considered people. If regular people like you and me can simply opt out of any law or portion of a law, then what use is the law if everyone does so? Our laws exist to keep people safe, to ensure that transactions taking place in society are fair and equitable, to ensure a secure society – there shouldn’t be some opt out clause for some people when everyone else has to follow the laws to the letter.

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