Nearly 240 years ago, a group of early American colonists signed a Declaration of Independence, a document intended to serve as the cornerstone for American freedom. This document granted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It also said something about freedom of religion…but I guess that clause rings a bit pointless after 238 years.
The Supreme Court has set a very dangerous precedent, communicating to closely-held corporations that they have an ace in the hole: Their religion.
At least, that’s how it seems, after the Supreme Court ruling Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., in which the American justice system ruled in favor of a company citing its religious beliefs as reason to deny their employees with certain forms of contraceptive care, including some of the more effective contraception.
While critics of the case’s outcome are outraged at this ruling’s mitigation of a woman’s rights, the real issue here isn’t about gender equality but about religious inequality and, more importantly, the stripping of our religious freedom.
The Supreme Court ruled that closely-held companies, meaning five or fewer people own more than half the corporation, may adhere to religious beliefs on matters of contraceptive medicine. According to Hobby Lobby, Inc., certain contraceptive methods are in violation of their religious beliefs, such as the morning after pill, or Plan B, and two forms of Intrauterine Devices (IUD). These contraceptive methods are viewed by some as abortive, as they are used in reaction to possible pregnancy as opposed to prevention. Regardless, the IUD is the most effective form of birth control, with a failure rate of less than 1%.
Concerns for women
Women everywhere are calling foul, saying that the ruling strips them of their right to affordable health care, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act requires a majority of health insurance plans to cover birth control without cost-sharing. Those exempt from this policy include non-profit religious organizations, whose members willingly choose to accept and live by that company’s religious standards.
This is neither the case with Hobby Lobby employees, nor the 52% of the American workforce employed by closely-held corporations—the corporations that can pretty much get whatever they want by hiding behind “their religious beliefs.”
Hobby Lobby decision sets dangerous precedent
The Supreme Court has set a very dangerous precedent, communicating to closely-held corporations that they have an ace in the hole: Their religion. The federal justice system has essentially shot itself not only in the foot, but also in the face. Not only did they fail to protect women’s right to affordable healthcare (yes, contraception counts as healthcare), but they failed to uphold the separation of church and state, which is arguably one of the best things about our country.
Because 90% of American companies are considered closely-held, there is a 9 out of 10 chance you are currently employed by a company that can abuse religion to satiate their own needs. The Supreme Court has essentially told us, “yes, there is a place for oppression based on religious beliefs, and that place is the American workplace.”
While the argument for a woman’s autonomy in contraceptive use is one that should definitely be heard, I feel like the true tragedy of this ruling is the complete decimation of our right to religious freedom. As an employee of a closely-held corporation, one can assume that his or her religion takes the backseat to the religion of their employer. This is just one freedom robbed of American workers, and it was robbed with very little difficulty.
While we celebrate our independence, I wonder what freedom will be taken next?
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Anna is a freelance writer/producer based out of San Francisco. Her writing covers several genres, but her passion lies in humor, entertainment, education and culture.