Hobby Lobby: Where the real war is


I am thankful for last week’s 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision that rejected the federal government case against Hobby Lobby. At issue was Hobby Lobby’s ability to eliminate certain birth control options covered by their healthcare plan due to its religious beliefs.

Prior to the decision, and subsequent to the passage of the healthcare law (ACA or Obamacare), Hobby Lobby was faced with essentially four options.

The first was to simply comply with the federal government, avoid all penalties, fees, and legal costs, but betray their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The second option was to drop healthcare coverage for its employees, assume over $20 million in penalties annually, and have their female employees pay for their own healthcare coverage.

Third, Hobby Lobby could have continued to cover only 16 of the 20 birth control methods that were mandated by the department of Health and Human Services (HHS), remain true to its religious convictions, but pay over $400 million annually in penalties. This third option, more than likely, would have put them out of business.

But the fourth and final option was to do what they did: fight judicial challenges by the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court, and hopefully win, and option four was what came to a dramatic conclusion last week.

While I was not surprised by the outcome, I was surprised by the reaction of those who characterized the decision as allowing businesses to use religion to oppress and deny the rights of women.

From the very beginning it seemed opponents of Hobby Lobby were positioning this case as “big corporations” versus women rights in an attempt to further a “war on women” narrative.

However, anyone who read the decision, or listened to an objective summary of it, would have observed how the Court stipulated that their decision only applied to businesses that were “closely held” (i.e., owned by an individual or small group like a family) and not any “big corporation.”

Additionally, Hobby Lobby did not violate the twenty-thousand-page ACA law. Rather, they were objecting to one of the mandates written by HHS within the tens of thousands of regulations intended to enforce the healthcare law.

I was also surprised to learn that this case was not filed by Hobby Lobby against the federal government. Nor was it filed by the female employees against Hobby Lobby. Rather, it was HHS who went after Hobby Lobby all the way to Supreme Court.

The HHS characterized the owners of Hobby Lobby as religious extremists who did not care about the health needs of their female employees and denied them birth control options.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, not only does Hobby Lobby pay its employees twice the minimum wage, but even before the healthcare law was passed, Hobby Lobby’s healthcare plans made available all 20 birth control options.

However, when the ACA law was passed, and because of the possible abortive nature of four of the 20 birth control methods provided by its healthcare plans, the company declined to pay for the four contraceptives in question, but continued to cover the remaining 16.

The opponents of Hobby Lobby insinuated that not only was the arts and craft store chain restricting birth control from female employees, but they were also inflicting undue economic burden on them.

They made these claims all the while knowing that the chain still provided full coverage of the remaining 16 birth control methods. And the four that were not covered included two “morning after” pills ranging in cost of $20-60, and two intrauterine devices (IUDs) ranging in costs of $500 to $1000 — all of which are considered to be abortive in nature, and therefore contrary to their sincerely held religious convictions.

Interestingly, and somewhat disturbing, none of the objectors of the decision insinuated that Hobby Lobby was asserting phony religious objections to the regulation or question their religious convictions. Rather, they inherently asserted that Hobby Lobby’s religious convictions were irrelevant at best, and at worst (and more insidiously), their convictions were oppressive and dangerous.

At the end of the day, this case really wasn’t about the women of Hobby Lobby. It wasn’t about unfair treatment and forcing economic hardships onto women nor was it about denying healthcare access given the many affordable alternatives. So, what was it about?

Logic tells me that this case was really about a federal government using women and our sensitivities to impose regulations on anyone who opposes them based on religious grounds.

The real war being perpetuated here is by the federal government (and like-minded individuals and entities) against religion, particularly Christianity. They seem to be against those who would think and act based on religious conviction when it does not comport to their notion of a progressive morality.

How else could one rationally justify allowing thousands of women to lose their health coverage and more than likely their jobs, yet saying it was worth it in order to force a private company to pay for a 50-cent pill?

Thankfully, Hobby Lobby had the resources to fight the goliath of the federal government, but I shudder to think how different the outcome would have been if it had been a small business like my own.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]