Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Five Reasons Why Christians Should Not Cheer the Hobby Lobby Ruling

You have probably heard by now: the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on the high profile Hobby Lobby case on Monday, ruling that "closely held" (ie, not publicly traded and owned by a very small number of individuals) can elect, on the basis of a religious objection, to not to cover contraception in an employee's healthcare.  Many Christians have cheered this ruling as a victory for religious liberty, but I'm not in that camp...this is a ruling that I think we as Christians have to approach with serious and genuine concern, and this is why:

1. Nothing says "I'm a pro liberty believer in small government" quite like welcoming a ruling that essentially says, "Have big government pay for contraception."

I tweeted pretty much exactly this when the ruling got handed down, and my view still hasn't changed.  Believe in small government libertarianism?  That's totally fine, reasonable people can and will always sometimes disagree, and I'm all for believing that politics should stop at the water's edge.  But if you're a Christian who also advocates for small government and personal liberty, please do realize that the majority ruling puts the onus on the big bad federal government (through the Department of Health and Human Services) to pay for contraception in these cases...the federal government that is, of course, funded with your (and my) tax dollars.  So if you pay federal taxes and are opposed to birth control for religious reasons, I've got bad news for you...then again, I'm opposed to the death penalty for religious reasons and I still pay my taxes, so join the club, I guess.

2. As of this writing, Hobby Lobby's healthcare will still cover a male employee's vasectomy.

Just in case you truly did think this was about being religiously opposed to contraception (see #1), it isn't.  Hobby Lobby is still, right now at least, still perfectly happy to cover a male employee's vasectomy, a procedure which literally has no medical purpose whatsoever besides (permanent) contraception.  As the article I link to here notes, Hobby Lobby's healthcare also covers male specific drugs like Viagra, but I'm emphasizing the vasectomy coverage here because it is a closer like for like comparison, since vasectomies are one of the only medical forms of contraception legally available to men in the United States.  In short, medical contraception for women: objectionable.  Medical contraception for men: no objection.  You do the math.

(And, as Monty Python taught me, every sperm is sacred!)

3. Female hormonal contraceptives have a myriad of medical purposes that have nothing to do with inhibiting procreation.

While vasectomies only serve one purpose, female hormonal contraception can claim quite the opposite.  I know this is a Wikipedia link, but still: the Pill is used to treat polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and a variety of menstruation related conditions.  Levonorgestrel (the main ingredient of Plan B/the morning after pill) is used in hormone replacement therapy.  Part of being pro life means being pro women's health as well as pro men's health.  And the drugs that Hobby Lobby is objecting to covering on religious grounds have documented health benefits for conditions that are about basic quality of healthcare and quality of life than about procreation or the inhibition of it.  (And for the record: while HL claims that it only opposes the four forms of emergency contraception listed in the suit, the other companies who challenged the law oppose all forms of contraception).

4. Contraception should be our strong ally in eradicating abortion.

I share many of the same moral and religious objections that so many of my fellow Christians do regarding abortion, and one (though by no means not the only, see above) of the reasons why I am in favor of universal access to contraception is that it demonstrably and immensely lowers the rate of abortion in empirical cases.  Want to do something real about the number of abortions performed today?  Make contraception more available, no questions asked.  It's simply good moral, and, dare I say it, Christian public policy.

5. SCOTUS just made a priority list out of differing denominations' religious beliefs.

The ruling took great pains to confine itself only to the issue of contraception and the religious objections to it, but in doing so (as opposed to, say, allowing for religious objections that some churches have to other forms of healthcare, such as psychiatric treatment or blood transfusions), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg correctly noted in her dissent that by explicitly accommodating only contraception related religious objections, the Supreme Court likely violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which not only notes that the government shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, but that the government shall likewise make no law respecting (that is, favoring) a particular religion either.  But by implicitly saying that only certain healthcare is worthy of being denied due to religious belief, the Supreme Court arguably failed to uphold the First Amendment protections that protect not only me but you...after all, the only way I can know that I am being allowed to worship however I am called to do so is if you are also able to worship however you are called to do so.  The precedent for all of that to someday change has been laid.

July 3 edit: If you did believe that the Supremes were actually limiting the scope of their ruling to just Hobby Lobby and similar corporations, or to only the four drugs being objected to, that has already been emphatically proven to not be so in another case concerning Wheaton College.

Yours in Christ,


  1. What a weird switcharoo this is, me commenting on your article!

    As a fellow Christian, you laid out my feelings on this ruling down fairly well. My only objection is #2 since Hobby Lobby still is covering 16 of the 20 required contraceptives, they only object to the ones they consider abortive. Obviously not on the same level as providing vasectomies and Viagra, but at least it's something.

    #4 is spot on. Even if there are companies who view both abortions and contraceptives as evil, contraceptives are the lesser of the two evils. Eradicating abortions takes priority in this sense and contraceptives are a way to do it.

  2. Fair point re: HL still covering the remainder of the 20 (I note that they only objected to the four in my #3), but like I said, there are other plaintiffs coming through the court system who object to all 20, and it'll be interesting/concerning to see how that goes.

    With #4...honestly, I don't get my own religion sometimes. Contraception (along with sound public health policy) can be a silver bullet in eliminating the vast majority of abortions, and we are turning our noses up at it for really tenuous reasons.

    Thanks for commenting, Ben! Enjoyed getting to hear from you about non soccer stuff!

  3. Eric, you have given the most reasoned response I have read so far. Thanks for your thoughtful post. I especially appreciate the import of #5. SCOTUS seems as "locked in" as the US Congress. That's two out of three?? Ouch!

  4. Your mother smiled when she read this post. Thank you Eric!