Neuendorf: Hobby Lobby Versus Birth Control

Zachary Neuendorf

Hobby Lobby provides us with all the arts and crafts one man or woman could ever want- and that is spectacular, but what it will not be providing its employees is much more concerning. Being owned by a religious family and operating under the guidance of Christian values, Hobby Lobby refuses to supply several forms of contraception to their employees that are required under the Affordable Health Care Act.

As you may have heard, this has gone to court as the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Store case, and a decision as to a lawful extent of religious influence in matters of for-profit corporations will be some time later, probably this summer. But until then and far after, this highly charged debate will linger on, and for good reason.

 Hobby Lobby’s owners, the Greens, claim that the new requirements inflict on their religious values, and with corporations increasingly being recognized essentially as people across the board, they believe this infringes on their freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

 A couple issues with that: first of all, the Greens believe that the four out of 20 contraceptives they ban, including Plan B and Ella, cause abortions post-conception, which is untrue, because they prevent pregnancy, not disrupt it.

Also, the entire concept of a corporation being represented as an individual with the exact same freedoms contradicts the fundamentals of the laws in place to give strength to the one person who needs protection. Protection from whom? Corporations like Hobby Lobby, of course, by nature already have a thumb on their employee’s lives.

Who decides the religion of a business? The Greens? Or should the shareholders have a say? Or maybe the 13,000-strong workforce? Those employees are the people, not the chain that sells scrapbook materials.

 Rather, granting a corporation the privilege to chew up the law and spit an alternate version on their employees is atrocious, and although the withholding of a few contraceptives seems painless, it could lead to more extreme and blurry merging of religion and law.

Recent in memory is a similar case in Arizona where smaller businesses fought to have the government’s approval to turn away gay customers because their ‘lifestyle’ did not jive with their theology. Thank God that was proven ridiculous by the legislation. But because the Hobby Lobby debacle is not as blatantly discriminative, it may have a bumpier road and a less fortunate, less progressive outcome.

On the surface, this is viewed as a woman’s issue- and the argument has been heard a million times: it is her body, and she deserves control of it, and that means give her all the health care and decisions she deserves. But if the violation of those rights do not ring alarming, then the potential of further, not-so-gendered health care abuse will catch more attention. If religion is used as a weapon to deny birth control, could it not, in theory, be used to deny coverage for vaccinations and transfusions?

This too easily could be a jumping point into a pool of life-or-death refusals. If a corporation is able to have this level of influence, they are forcing their holy practice on their employees, which will no doubt be the catalyst for many court cases to come.  From every angle, this is not freedom of expression; it is an abuse of power.

 Down the road, if Hobby Lobby does succeed in asserting their beliefs in their policy, every corporation could interpret laws according to their belief system, which may vary wildly from one business to another. Basically, the foundation set by the law would render meaningless because it will be interpreted by the “big guys” however seen opportune for them.

When I was little, going to Hobby Lobby was a treat, smelling the supplies and seeing beautiful Martha Stewart hopefuls parading around with their shopping carts, but now all I can see is a building representation of a business overstepping boundaries and taking advantage of freedom. But until this gets resolved, I guess I will have to get my arts and craft fix at a couple  flea markets. Oh well. 

A Hobby Lobby employee was approached for comment, but they are not permitted to discuss the court case.