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Court decision poses question: whose religious ‘freedom’ matters more?

Date: 7/2/2014

I was reading Facebook the other day and one of my friends posted, “Another Supreme Court victory! We have religious rights!” in reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case.

Hobby Lobby’s owners do not want their employees to have access to contraception through the company’s insurance coverage because it is contrary to the owners’ religious beliefs.

If an employee wants to get a prescription for contraception, she must pay the full amount, as none of it would be covered by the policy.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends. Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies.”

Of course it doesn’t protect the religious liberty or personal freedom of the employees, but that apparently is acceptable.

So who has religious freedom?

This officially opens a new era in America, one in which if you sign on for a retail job, such as those offered by Hobby Lobby, you also sign on for the theology of the owners. If you don’t agree, would you need to find a new job?

That’s a heck of a commitment for a minimum wage-plus gig.

What are the interviews going to be for the cashiers, stock people and managers? Are they going to ask if you practice contraception? Quiz you about your private life?

Gone are the days in which the beliefs of both the employer and employee were personal and that the goal of the relationship is to be fairly compensated for work well done.

Now, if we apply for a job we have to understand it may be colored by the religious beliefs of the owners – even a job selling craft supplies.

Could a person be fired for his or her beliefs? If a Hobby Lobby employee objects to the theology of the owners, could they terminate him or her?

How far do the “rights” of an employer extend over those of the employees?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissent to the decision. Here are several of her points:
• “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would … deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.

• “Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community.

• “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.”

She added, “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

I certainly agree.

And just when all of us who enjoy the Student Prince thought this weekend would be the iconic eatery’s last stand, comes the announcement that Peter Picknelly, CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines, will buy the restaurant and keep its style and traditions.

The move shows Picknelly’s commitment to the city and the region and confirms the importance of tradition.

A tip of the summer straw hat goes to you, sir. 

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.