Today, the Supremes decided, along conservative/liberal lines, that Obamacare cannot require closely-held corporations to pay for health care that they have religious objections to.
What is a closely-held corporation? It's a company where more than 50% of the stock is owned by five or fewer people. While this conjures up an image of the corner dry cleaner or local car repair place, closely-held corporations can be quite large and employ thousands of people.
Ironically, given that conservatives won the day, the women who can't get contraception from their companies can turn to Obamacare for it, meaning that the companies who object to it will still be paying for it through their federal income taxes along with all the rest of us.
The company who brought the suit, Hobby Lobby (a hobby and crafts chain) only objected to paying for "emergency" (post-conception) contraception. However, did you notice that that sort of contraception. They will still be paying for the pill, diaphragms, and other sorts of prevention, but not for any form that results in aborting a fetus.
Bear in mind, now, that how much we may object to this application of the First Amendment, which guarantees both religious freedom and free speech, we atheists are protected by this amendment as well, so any thought of tampering with it comes with risks and the potential for unintended consequences.
The fear, now, despite the decision being described as "very narrow" by some, is that if a corporation has the same religious freedom as a person, can they discriminate in various ways against gays, for example? This court has been treating corporations as persons at seemingly every opportunity.
It will be interesting to see what this will lead to. There is already talk that there will be companies using the same tactic to argue against hiring or serving people who are LGBT, and using it to reintroduce some type of segregation.
The Hobby Lobby decision is a small ripple compared to the waves that it's precedent can set.
Edit: Here is one weakness already found in the decision:
The decision may have a plus side by driving more people away from employer-supplied healthcare to Obamacare. The conservatives may have shot themselves in the foot with this one!
Another ramification is that some religions go far beyond being opposed to abortion. While they may oppose abortion, they may also oppose blood transfusions, the use of antibiotics, and vaccination among other things. And what if they believe in prayer rather than medicine?
Some cynical business owners may cynically and falsely claim to adhere to any religion that makes their medical insurance costs lower.
The current Supreme Court is WACK.
I had to drive out of town yesterday, and at one point my NH Public Radio station wasn't coming in, so I pushed the tuner to try to get another station to come in. The next station that was coming in clearly was a Christian one - Moody Bible Institute Radio or something like that. The program was called "In The Marketplace" with Janet Parshall, and they were going to be talking about the SCotUS Hobby Lobby decision. I have listened to her show before, during periods of morbid curiosity and, apparently, a tendency towards self-abuse.
Janet is frighteningly smart. It is fascinating to listen to her and get a glimpse into the organization, effort, and momentum behind evangelical, right-wing "grace". I didn't listen to the program, because, thankfully, I had somewhere else to be. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, knowing that they would be claiming this as a stunning victory for religious freedom. I seem to be be having that sinking feeling a lot lately.
I hope that it somehow backfires on the overbearing, control-hungry Religious Right. For right now, it seems like a solid hole punched through the wall that separates one group of people from being able to dictate their religious beliefs onto others. I do not like to think what will be next. I am glad theirs is not the only voice out there.
This whole issue reinforces the need to be responsible with your sexual activity and make every effort to avoid the need for termination.
The cornucopia of cases that will come forth at the lower court level as a result of this decision will make it a safe bet that SCOTUS will be revisiting this issue in the future.
A history of corporations and how the concept that they are persons for egal purposes developed over time:
This SCOTUS is so Dazed and Confused it couldn't find it's way out of a paper bag, I am not surprised by any of it's decisions.
The court opinion claimed that, because the government had other, less restrictive ways of providing contraceptive care than the mandate to do so with penalties attached, that this makes contraceptive care different than other religious beliefs that might be discriminatory (e.g. anti-gay) or prevent other aspects of health care (e.g. blood transfusions) or even health care entirely (e.g. if the Christian Science Monitor didn't want to provide any health care to its employees on religious grounds - my example not the court's). But the precedent is set and might be interpreted differently by a different court or on a different case where this religious "protection" for a corporation could be extended to other beliefs. What needs to be challenged is the court's opinion that being a corporation does not mean giving up rights guaranteed to persons. Their reasoning is that just because a person incorporates a business to protect themselves from personal liability, that shouldn't deprive them of their rights as individuals in the way the corporation is run. But this seems like having your cake and eating it too. You avoid the liabilities of a an individual (you can't be sued) but you retain all the same rights as an individual. Since this interpretation has determined campaign contribution and advertising rights as well as contraceptive use, it is broader than the religious issue and needs to be challenged. I do agree with this author that any issue of the government imposing any rules with regard to religion has to be treated very gingerly, since it has been a lesson of both history and current culture that governments are much more prone to imposing religious values and beliefs than to ignore them and absolute separation of church and state is necessary for we atheists. The question becomes when does a court decision become imposing a religious value (for instance the value of no contraception on the employees of these corporations) as opposed to protecting that value from government interference.
If a corporation is a "person" to the extent it can have religious beliefs, perhaps a corporation can be declared insane.
The day after the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, a group of religious leaders sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that he exempt them from a forthcoming executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people. (source)
It's hard to imagine how the Supremes could justify not using the same logic they used in the Hobby Lobby case to exempting closely-held businesses from requirements to be fair to LGBT's in hiring practices, especially given their other unanimous ruling against Presidential executive orders. Pres. Obama issued an executive order ordering government contractors not to discriminate against LGBT's.