The Supreme Court, “Religious Freedom,” and Why No One Should Be Celebrating

July 2, 2014

So, I was not very successful in avoiding the internet this week.hobby-lobby

The Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby and other Christian companies has produced a veritable flood of contradictory comments in my social media feed. One person praises Jesus for a religious freedom “win.” The next person shakes his fist at the heavens. (I credit this to me, being very non-discriminatory with whom I associate with online, thank you very much.)

Still, it can make for a frustrating exercise to see so much anger on one side and so much righteous glee on the other, and everyone in favor of burning everyone else at the stake.

So I’ve sorted out the facts and the opinions.

And I’ve come to an inescapable conclusion.

I believe the Supreme Court had to rule the way it did. Evaluating religious beliefs in a court is a dangerous precedent.

But, the decision is by no means a “win.” It is bad…for everyone. We are all losers in this fight. We would still all lose if the court had gone the other way.

There is just no good outcome of any of this. Here’s why.

Big Corporate Christianity

What makes Hobby Lobby a “Christian” company?

It cannot be their customer service. I have found few stores whose employees frustrate me more than that place. I’ll take those hell-bound pagans at Michael’s any day. Oh wait, is it Christian because it’s super annoying to everyone?

As far as we can tell, Hobby Lobby is “Christian” because it’s closed on Sundays…and now they don’t have to pay for birth control. And that’s it. It’s not their purchasing practices. It’s not their corporate structure. Hobby Lobby does not define itself as “Christian” because of some broad international humanitarian work that everyone knows about. Like a certain fast-food chain, we are witness to a national corporation representing our faith in the thinnest of terms.

We don’t work on Sundays.

And we don’t pay for birth control.

That is Christianity?

This is what our culture sees, people. This is how Christianity is represented. If we are tempted to think this is a “win” for Christians in a culture that is trying to strangle us, it is now clear to me that we are the ones hanging ourselves. The culture is just handing us the rope to do so. We all lose.

Just Give Us Our Money

The problem that was “solved” on Monday is never really going to be solved. We have created a problem that is never going to get fixed. Instead it will create a perennial controversy.

The problem is about what we think our employers owe us. 

Our employers used to owe us our wages and nothing more. Everyone thought that was a square deal. But along the way, some companies decided to be more competitive at attracting talented workers. So they offered “benefits” which were just that. Things like health care were extra incentives.

Now we are at a place where what used to be extra is now mandatory for large companies. We have shot ourselves in the foot by forcing our employers to be in charge of our health care, then we take them to court when we don’t like the decisions they make. Corporations are just people.And whenever you put other people in charge of your personal matters, this is what happens.

The solution, far better than this disgrace, would be for every employer to give their employees a raise, and everyone to pay for their own health care and buy whatever kind of birth control you want instead of fighting with your employer about it. Hobby Lobby has no control and no interest in what its employees do with the wages it pays them. That’s the way it should be. But since it is not, expect to see this circus on a regular basis from now on.

This is no win for religious freedom. It’s a sham. The “religious freedom” in this case is an illusion. We all lose.

Where Is the Uproar for the Rest of Us?

Finally, women lose, not only because of this decision, but the repeated and consistent way they are represented in these controversies. Why is it that the most prominent function of women in politics is birth control, however you define it? I fully and completely understand the need for birth control, but I am kind of offended for women at how you are reduced to this one issue. 

Here is where it gets personal to me and my wife. When we did not want a baby, we paid for our own birth control. There was no one offering us freebies. There was no one looking out for us, making sure that we had everything we needed.

And then, when we wanted to have a kid (and things kept not working out), there was no one to help us there either, though our bills kept stacking up. It does not take a lot of leg work to find an insurance plan that will give us birth control. There are no shortage of people who will advocate for our right to not bring a life into the world. But when you start trying to do the one thing that women are actually biologically designed to do (i.e. create life), you’re not going to find an insurance company in 500 miles that will help.

Preventing life at all costs is a medical necessity in this country, but actually creating new life is not. And that is a loss for women and all of us.

But what do you think? Can this really be boiled down to “religious liberty,” or did we just create another problem for ourselves down the road?

7 responses to The Supreme Court, “Religious Freedom,” and Why No One Should Be Celebrating

  1. I’m completely missing the point of this entire article just to say that by the time I get through the register at Michael’s I want to bang my head on the counter repeatedly because I get so frustrated with their customer service. Hobby Lobby isn’t far behind. I think it might be a craft store thing because JoAnne Fabrics ticks me off too. I get angry just at the thought of going into these stores. As far as healthcare costs, isn’t it much cheaper for an employer to offer a benefits package than pay more money for someone to get their own insurance? Isn’t that why companies do it? It’s a cheaper way of looking appealing to potential employees. Also, I have worked for companies that would help with in vitro fertilizations. I think I recall that you could get two “chances” with the one company. That’s rare though, I guess. I’m still ticked off that some companies, that will remain unnamed because it hits too close to home, don’t give any kind of paternity leave for a dad who has recently adopted a child. Not even a day. But they have paternity leave if the mother gave birth. What-feaking-ever.
    Kate Hall recently posted..Top 10 Funniest Tweets – June 2014

    • I agree with you. I missed the point of the article as well, and why other Christians are so disappointed by the decision. I get more ticked that when I had my son and was working for a state agency they had no designated maternity leave, I had to use my own leave in order to be off, for 8 weeks ( and they were not required to have maternity leave nor where they Christian). I think there are many women issues with insurances or agencies they work for, and it does not have to really deal with a “religious” affiliation..
      Sophia Reed recently posted..Forgiving God.

  2. I find it puzzling as to why Americans feel that they have the right to force anyone to pay for their birth control costs.

    Use what you will, that is legal (right or wrong)…but PAY FOR IT YOURSELF!
    theoldadam recently posted..Paulson’s Book – Chapter 9

    • Health insurance benefits are part of the compensation that businesses offer to employees in addition to a salary. Employees get health insurance benefits in the same way they get a salary: by working. Employees are paying for their own health benefits by working, in the same way they’re paying for their own car payments, rent, and electricity. Would you say that a company is paying for any of my things, simply because they compensate me with money for my work? Of course not. That would be silly. So is claiming that a company would be paying for any prescription, doctor’s appointment, or medical procedure, simply because they compensate me with health insurance benefits for my work, especially considering employees already pay for the insurance premiums, deductibles, and copays. All in all, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  3. Dang Matt! Way to go.

    I don’t really know where to start because you cover a lot of big topics all at once. My favorite though is what seems to be the boiling down of women’s rights to a single issue. And a polarizing moral one at that.

    Keep up the good work.
    KC recently posted..Dad Life Rules: Andy Traub

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  5. Matt:

    I agree with your general premise that this decision wasn’t the be all and end all many were proclaiming. If it had gone the other way, the good news of Jesus would still be the good news of Jesus, right? I wonder if the bigger problem isn’t that we are spending way too much time as Christians seeking approval from the population at large, rather than simply proclaiming the gospel message and letting the Holy Spirit do his work? Your sense that our Christianity is too thin speaks well to this issue. Take a look at David Wells’ book God in the Wasteland which goes into this idea in depth.