Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Facts to know about Hobby Lobby

With the recent 5-4 decision of the US Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case, Facebook and the blogosphere are abuzz once more with argument and debate from either side.  In your own discussions over this issue, here are some pertinent facts to keep in mind.

1.  Hobby Lobby's owners are not Catholic.
Not that this fact matters to the issue at hand, but it should be kept in mind.  Many Catholics (rightly) have supported Hobby Lobby's struggle against the Federal government's HHS mandate, and I have found that because of this some people have assumed Hobby Lobby to be a Catholic-owned business.  The Green family that owns Hobby Lobby are evangelical Protestants.  David Green, the founder, is the son of an Assemblies of God preacher.

2. Hobby Lobby is not against contraception.
Since the owners of Hobby Lobby are not Catholic, no one should be scandalized that they offer coverage for contraceptives and sterilizations as part of their employee health care insurance.  I have heard some people claim that the Hobby Lobby owners are hypocritical for claiming to be against contraception while at the same time covering it in their employee insurance.  Hobby Lobby has never stated they are against contraception.  What they object to are certain specific drugs, sold as "contraception," which in fact cause early abortions.  This is about abortion, not contraception.  (However, the two are closely related, and the increased debate this has created about contraception in this country has been a good thing).

3. An abortion is an abortion is an abortion.
Some news sources say the drugs in question cause abortion and others say this is not true.  So who is correct?  And why the discrepancy?  It has to do with how you define the start of pregnancy.  Some do not consider a woman to be pregnant until the embryo has implanted in the uterus, which can take place as much as a week after conception.  By defining pregnancy as beginning at implantation, pharmaceutical companies can make the claim that drugs which kill a healthy embryo after conception but before implantation do not cause abortion.  However, the end result is the same -- a dead unborn human.  Some have called these early medically induced abortions "mini abortions," but you can no more have a "mini abortion" than you can be "a little bit pregnant."

4.  It's not really about religion.
Some are calling this a victory for Religious Freedom, and I suppose that is true.  But this case does not have anything to do with whether people may practice a given religion or not, or if people of faith deserve special exemptions to the rules.  Hobby Lobby's owners are against abortion, but there are pro-life people who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, agnostics and atheists.  I even know a few pro-life pagans!  You can be pro-life without being religious, and religious or not, no one should be forced into violating their conscience.  This ruling is about Religious Freedom inasmuch as it allows people of faith to follow their conscience the world; but it also affords that same right to people with no faith, and that's important.  (More on freedom of conscience later).

5. Hobby Lobby's treatment of its employees.
I've never worked for Hobby Lobby.  I doubt many of the naysayers I'm reading online complaining about Hobby Lobby have either.  To hear them, though, Hobby Lobby is an evil corporation who is denying basic human rights to its wage-slave employees.  So just to recap, Hobby Lobby does offer health insurance to employees; and that insurance covers a wide array of contraception -- just not abortion-inducing ones.  And Hobby Lobby is not saying their employees can't purchase those drugs; they would simply have to pay for them on their own.  Which they probably could, given the fact that Hobby Lobby's minimum pay for part-time employees is $9.50 hour, while it's minimum pay for full time workers is $14.00 per hour, nearly twice the national minimum wage of $7.50.

6. Hobby Lobby is not anti-woman.
This is a canard.  Refusing to pay for abortion-causing drugs does not make you anti-woman.  For the record, most people involved in the pro-life movement are women.  (It is also worth noting that most babies killed by abortion world-wide are female).

7. Corporations are people.  Sort of.
Some have complained that a corporation cannot have "religious freedom" because corporations are not religious.  However, we must remember the basic fact that corporations are made up of human beings who own and operate them.  We do not leave our humanity behind when we enter the workplace.  Plus, corporations are considered "persons" under US law for many different purposes, so this is hardly a new concept.

8. Hobby Lobby's investments.
Some are calling Hobby Lobby hypocritical because it apparently invests some of its money in companies which make the same drugs it is objecting to.  From what I have been able to tell, as part of its 401(k) retirement investments, Hobby Lobby (like most businesses) invests in a diversified portfolio which includes some pharmaceutical companies which make many different drugs, including some of the ones Hobby Lobby objects to.  Is this hypocritical?  Maybe.  In the world of moral philosophy, this is something called remote material cooperation.  Without getting to pedantic about it, by investing their money in a portfolio that includes some companies that make some products which are morally objectionable, Hobby Lobby is cooperating in that moral evil, but in a rather removed sort of way.  Whether they are morally culpable for this depends on a variety of factors, but it is not the same as directly and intentionally funding those morally objectionable things.  But that's something that the Hobby Lobby owners need to work out (and probably are).  And it has no bearing at all on the matter at hand, which is whether the federal government can compel individuals or businesses to pay for something they hold to be morally evil and thus violate their conscience.

(It is also worth noting that Hobby Lobby gives half of its pre-tax income annually to charities, and founder David Green has also personally pledged to give half of his wealth to charity before he dies).

9. Conscience Rights
The principle really at stake here is the freedom of individuals to live according to their conscience; a freedom which should apply whether you are at home, at school, at church, or in the workplace, whether you are the founder of a business, CEO of a corporation, or a lowly wage-earner.  Some are making the ridiculous claim that by refusing to cover abortion-inducing drugs, Hobby Lobby is somehow "forcing its beliefs" upon its workers, thereby violating their workers' rights.  But having your employer pay for your contraceptives (abortion causing or not) is not a right.  Being able to live according to your conscience is.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "in all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right" (CCC 1778). Our Church further teaches:

Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions.  "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience.  Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience..."  (CCC 1781, quoting the Second Vatican Council document Dignitatis Humanae 3, 2).

 This teaching of the Catholic Church is true not only for Catholics but for all of humanity.  The Supreme Court ruling on Hobby Lobby is a victory for conscience rights, and for that reason is a victory for us all.
 

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