(KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a defeat to the Obama administration, ruling that closely held companies cannot be forced to cover some types of contraceptives for their employees. Owners of Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores, had argued that the Obamacare contraception coverage mandate required them to pay for some methods they oppose on religious grounds. We’ll discuss the implications of the decision, as well as other major rulings from the court’s latest term.

Guests:
Rory Little, professor of law at UC Hastings College of the Law
Vikram Amar, professor of law at the UC Davis School of Law
Elizabeth Slattery, senior legal policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation

  • Another Mike

    If the government cannot force closely held corporations to spend money on contraception, because their owners believe that contraception destroys a human life, then how could they force a company owned by Quakers to pay taxes to support the military, whose whole purpose is to destroy human life?

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Quakers can take their case to the court. But the government could argue that Anti war tax payers taxes are being used for non war activities. Unless a Quaker as an example, can prove otherwise.

    • the Supreme Court has heard that case before. In fact, they reference it directly in the opinion for this case (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf – page 6). There is “no less restrictive alternative to the categorical requirement to pay taxes.” whereas, in this case, the government has options other than forcing companies to supply contraception.

      • Another Mike

        Every year, Congress passes a budget. Every year, the percent of spending devoted to the military is tabulated. Let us say 35% of federal income taxes are spent on the military.

        Then, all that the conscientious objective taxpayer need do is multiply his tax obligation by 65%, and send it in.

        • This isn’t even a debate. The Supreme Court already addressed these issues. United States vs. Lee clearly states that “Not all burdens on religion are unconstitutional.”
          …so all the conscientious objective taxpayer need do is bring a case to the court stating their objections and let the court decide if those taxes are an unconstitutional burden on their religion.

  • ldemelis

    There is no agreed-upon definition of “closely-held” corporation. For federal tax purposes, it means a company that is not publicly traded, and has no more than 100 shareholders in a single class. This definition includes some of the largest companies in the country (e.g., Koch Brothers). How can this kind of company be said to have “religious opinions”?

    • Another Mike

      I imagine some business owners would see the advantage of having pro-life beliefs if it would save them money.

      • Mrs. Eccentric

        Another Mike – if you’ll allow a little old lady a small pun to offset her dismay at these recent decisions, i’l simply respond – Amen!….steph

    • um…that’s just wrong…it’s been agreed on for decades…50% owned by 5 or less people (http://1.usa.gov/1mzTV4T)

      • ldemelis

        It depends on the context. In the securities law context, the definition of closely-held corporation is far less clear. You’re right that the courts will probably coalesce around the IRS definition, which is odd given that the Court specifically said it couldn’t be used for tax cases.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Hobby Lobby was NOT the only business that was involved in the case. Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pa., owned by a Mennonite family was also party to the case. One does not give up their 1st Amendment religious rights when they have a private business.

    And neither company sought to deny ALL forms of birth control, just oral contraceptives that are deemed to create an abortion, which some oral contraceptives do by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

    And remember the Obama administration gave exemptions to other religious based groups and businesses.

    • Bloopsie

      The other exempt organizations were non-profit religious organizations. NON profit. RELIGIOUS in that they serve a religious purpose. They didn’t sell stuff to enrich themselves.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    okay – according to Ms. Slattly the emplyee’s religious rights fall to the wayside as they’ve ‘chosen to work there’, but it occurs to me that no one is forcing anyone to run a business. I know many many people who do not run one, and never have. However, in the current economy, it’s much harder to choose one’s employer.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Life’s unfair

      • Mrs. Eccentric

        I choose to work towards making kife more fair. You are free to make and live with your own choices, including writing rude remarks to other people you do not even know.

        • Beth Grant DeRoos

          Rude? Life’s unfair is a statement of fact. None of us get what we want all the time.

          • Mrs. Eccentric

            and you felt compelled to expressthis statement of self evident fact in response to my comment because…….?

          • Beth Grant DeRoos

            Because you chose to post a comment on a public board where people comment on other peoples comments.

            By the way back in the 70’s when President Jimmy Carter was challenged about his belief that abortion is wrong, commented ‘life’s unfair’.

          • Mrs. Eccentric

            hi Beth! thank you for your kind and considered comments and the time you took to type them out for me. Through reading your contributions to this discussion, it’s become apparent that you care very much about these issues and your mind is quite firmly made up. Thus, i’m afraid any more interaction between us would just be a waste of our precious time. Best!!! steph

  • Ben Rawner

    What happens when a company believes in “healing prayer”, does that mean I would get no healthcare? Maybe I don’t need to go to the dentist, because I can Chant my toothache away. Where is the limit?

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      No one needs work for a company whose views are contrary to their own. Maybe more companies will simply not choose to offer full medical coverage, or any coverage at all.

      • Bloopsie

        I suppose no one ‘needs’ to work. You could always starve and die of exposure. When a job is available you often don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing whether or not to take it. I would argue that few Americans have such freedom in practice. An argument of that sort (you could always work elsewhere) is silly. I suspect then that if a person did not take a job at Hobby Lobby on principle and instead took a job at Jack in the Box and then complained about the low pay and ;lack of benefits you would then argue that they had the choice to take the Hobby Lobby job.

  • Pontifikate

    Now we need to know which corporations, specifically, are “closely held” and whether they intend to avail themselves of the decision to deny women contraceptive coverage. Once we know that, women (and men) can decide whether or not to work for these companies and whether to boycott them. But we need the information.

    • I’d be happy to help if you let me know what information are you looking for.
      Benefits is a common pre-employment topic and should be easily ascertained before beginning a job.
      Corporate filings are public record so you can deduce the majority of closely held corporations by reading the filings (closely held: http://1.usa.gov/1mzTV4T)

      • Pontifikate

        I’m not looking for work, but the way you’ve explained it puts a burden on the potential employee. The particular closely-held companies that intend to invoke this decision should be a matter of public record eventually. I hope at that point the information will allow people to boycott, should they choose to do so.

        • Yes. The burden is on the potential employee, as are all company benefits. Read potential employee to mean: an individual or group of concerned citizens.
          Where is the list of companies that choose to pay the fine and not provide healthcare at all? Isn’t that a bigger issue?
          Where is the list of companies that choose not to provide 401k matching for their employees? Do we not value retirement?
          Where is the list of companies that choose not to provide free meals for their employees? Food is a basic necessity for life.
          My question is, who decides what’s important enough to list? It’s the individual citizen. So yes, the burden is on the potential employee.

  • Janice

    If we expanded Medicare in order to have national health insurance, issues like these would never arise again. Other countries marvel at our willingness to allow employers to decide issues about our health care!.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    hmm. all these qualifications on the Hobby Lobby case are reminding me of Bush v. Gore….

  • Barry

    I’m stunned today listening to this news. Workplace provided health insurance is obviously part of employee compensation, so why does an employer have a right to restrict how that compensation is spent or applied? Is selective coverage any different from the old days of paying in “company script?”

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Maybe we should go back to when healthcare coverage was not offered. Instead pay more and the employee can then buy their own coverage.

      • Barry

        Employer-based coverage is and always has been a bad idea. Universal coverage is the obvious solution, as every other developed country has already figured out. But in the meantime, the idea that employer provided coverage is some kind of paternalistic gift is ridiculous, offensive, and a greater threat to American freedom than any terrorist
        .

        • Beth Grant DeRoos

          Barry why is it ridiculous or offensive to say that employee provided coverage is some type of ‘gift’? Its an incentive to get or retain the best employees isn’t it?

          • Another Mike

            Gifts are items given without expecting anything in return, but things your employer gives you are compensation for your efforts, not gifts.

          • Mrs. Eccentric

            hi Mike! i love the dictionary too <3

          • Barry

            Beth, I think it’s ridiculous because a “gift,” by definition, is unearned, whereas employer-provided healthcare is part of compensation for services provided. Employers provide health coverage because they want you to entice you to work there, which is the same reason they give you money, vacation, or any other type of compensation. It’s not a gift.

  • RFRA was passed to protect the rights of Native Americans’ use of peyote in religious ceremonies. It’s sad to see that individuals’ rights have now taken a backseat to companys’ rights to deny health care to individuals. How can this be in keeping with the spirit of the law?
    http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2014/01/hawaii-federal-court-rejects-rfra.html

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      As more and more states make the use of marijuana legal I see change coming of peyote coming for native people. They key issue is how do we make sure its only native people use peyote in their religious services?

      • Mrs. Eccentric

        well, according to what i’m hearing on this show re: this decision, the kep point is the person’s ‘sincere belief’. So i suppose demonstrate a sincere belief you’re of indigenous dissent and you’re golden.

        As long as the government identifies your belief as sincere. What could go wrong there?

        • Beth Grant DeRoos

          Read decisions by the courts going back hundreds of years and one sees where many cases have been brought and won or lost based on a persons deeply held, sincere beliefs.

          • Bloopsie

            Name one Supreme Court decision based solely on the sincerity of either litigants’ belief.

          • Mrs. Eccentric

            Bloopsie, these days it seems that ‘sincerity’ in the courts of the USA is often spelled ‘$$$$$$$’. But that’s just a bunch of letters spouted by someone on the internet, so make sure your salt shaker is handy! and thank you for linking to the Mother Jones article – i appreciate reading recommendations. steph

    • Bloopsie

      RFRA is a perfect example of unintended consequences. When it was being pushed through congress, a broad coalition of civil and human rights and religious organizations banded together to promote it and here we are with it being used as a blunt instrument to impede on the rights of many to benefit a few .

  • Bloopsie

    It seems that the owners of the company get to decide which contraceptive care is counter to their religious belief and that their ability to do this is based on their sincerity? This sounds like the door has been kicked wide open to litigation for generations to come.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      And what is wrong with future litigation for those who have sincere concerns?

      • Bloopsie

        How do you judge ‘sincerity’? There is perhaps no more subjective judgement. There is wide agreement that the Hobby Lobby owners are sincere, yet they invest in stocks of companies that manufacture the very contraceptives they abhor.

  • Daniel

    As a millennial and a philosophy phd student studying marxism and nietzsche these cases are scarring my generation more and more. Who will decide “authenticity” of religious intent? When will illusory personal beliefs stop affecting the social as a whole.

    • Mrs. Eccentric

      hi Daniel! this is, to me, the scariest of all: “Who will decide “authenticity” of religious intent” If it’s the government, then how in the world will that lead to separation of church and state (and i know it’s not written like that in the constitution). Is that type of situation not ispo facto state religion? i forget who on the show said it’s a can of worms, but they hit the nail on the head. steph

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Since authenticity concerns the truthfulness of origins, attributes, commitments, sincerity , devotion, and intentions of a belief system, so one could assume using common sense, that a devout person who can prove that they walk the talk of their religious beliefs that said beliefs are authentic.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    meta comment ahead: i feel like the Forum forum is really coming into it’s own the last few months. It seems that every week some issue or other attracts a member to pepper the thread with comments, replying to just about each and every post, for hours after the show is finished.

    Don’t know what it means, if anything, but it’s a change from times past. Has anyone else noticed this? Thank you for reading! steph

    • Chris OConnell

      Late reply but I have noticed what you are saying, but I remember seeing that in the past to some extent as well (think of the dog off-leash issue). I would say that it is mostly about people having passions about certain subjects and so they need to respond to everything they object to, they just can’t be restrained. That’s how it works for me anyway. Maybe more people are aware of the site so they use it.

      • Mrs. Eccentric

        Hi Chris! thank you for taking the time to reply 🙂 i just wanted to bring it up more for people who don’t use fora/discussion boards a lot but who are drawn to this one because they love the radio show. Those of us with lots of web experience in these types of interactive media realize what you say – that certain people use these webpages as ‘bully pulpits’ to try to whip up feeling about certain topics on which they have very defined, passionate views. These same people very often are not interested in honest, frank discussion – looking through their various comments shows that they ask questions or make remarks which really aren’t in good faith but skirt just under the guidelines, ask repeatedly for ‘sources’ when a quick google search would provide them with bounteous material on the matter, etc.

        Restraining people isn’t always a great solution, though in extreme cases i think it’s wise. But i was mostly interested to see if other people who comment now and then have noticed this, and maybe open new users’ eyes to what you can learn by checking out another poster’s history of replies.

        Always thrilling to see a Dendroica as well!! steph

        • Chris OConnell

          I am a bit guilty. I often want to get my point out but not necessarily engage in a dialogue (like I am now), especially with those I disagree with. I do use my real name and will read what they have to say but It’s the internet! I don’t really want to spend much time arguing with anonymous people on the internet! (Internet comment boards are generally soul-sucking and horrible; this site is not like that and I am a big Krasny/Forum fan.)

          Townsend’s Warbler in my icon; they are up in Washington and Canada now, mostly. But I look forward to them coming back to the Bay Area in the fall.

  • Cathy

    We are forgetting about the separation of church and state. The owners of companies, corporations large and small, have every right to their personal religious beliefs. However, I think that they also have a moral responsibility to stand for the common good. No one is looking out for the common man. Health care and the access to health care is personal and private. Corporations and privately held companies have the moral responsibility to provide for their employees and to not meddle in the unique choices that employees make for their family’s health care.

  • Byron Gordon

    “According to the Court’s majority, the federal government should just pay for these services directly. “The most straightforward way of doing this would be for the Government to assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections.” In other words, the five Republican appointees to the Court suggest the government establish a single-payer plan for contraceptive services. Remarkable.” (thanks, Robert Reich, for your wisdom)

    • Bill_Woods

      ‘Could’ doesn’t mean ‘should’.

  • Benton Fraser

    This is a minor point I know, but did it bother anyone else that the representative from the Heritage Foundation didn’t know that Catholics are Christians? She referenced Catholics and Christians as being separate entities more than a few times during her interview. If a representative from a think tank can get such a basic idea incorrect (multiple times), it makes one wonder about what else she may be wrong…

  • Chris OConnell

    The Supreme Court is very concerned about the religious sensibilities of inanimate corporations but if you are a human citizen of Greece, New York, they scoff at and mock on your religious freedom.

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