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Corporate Religious Liberty: The Supreme Court’s Misguided Decision

| June 30, 2014

Whose tolerance? Whose beliefs? (Surian Soosay)

Whose tolerance? Whose beliefs? (Surian Soosay)

By Joyce S. Dubensky

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

The decision effectively permits the deeply held religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby CEO and founder David Green and his wife to be institutionalized as corporate policy. As such, this decision supports their personal beliefs but will also impinge on the beliefs and practices of some of the corporation’s employees.

This case presented hard questions on how to ensure religious freedom for both employers and employees and, ultimately, how to balance the Greens’s freedom of religion with the right of employees to believe differently. In prioritizing the beliefs of the Greens, the Supreme Court rendered a decision that is likely to have a myriad of consequences, some unintended.


Tanenbaum’s practical programs bridge religious differences for hundreds of thousands of teachers & students, employers & employees, doctors & patients and peacemakers combating armed conflict across the globe.

We train corporate executives to manage people with diverse religious beliefs in a way that benefits the company and the employee. Our 2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion found that companies committed to accommodating religious diversity are far more likely to attract and retain the best talent. For example, when companies provide flexibility for religious practices, their employees report higher job satisfaction. And when they have clear policies on religious discrimination, their employees are less likely to be looking for a new job. The Hobby Lobby decision may undercut such successes when companies opt to follow its dictates.

Moving forward, we predict that the business case for supporting religious diversity – and preventing the religious beliefs of any one group from overriding the beliefs of others – will motivate the most successful corporate leaders to reject the model established by the Hobby Lobby case. When that happens, freedom of religion will be protected while employees of all religious beliefs — and none — will feel respected and included in the workplace.

Joyce S. Dubensky is the CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, a secular, non-sectarian organization that combats religious prejudice and promotes mutual respect.

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18 Responses for “Corporate Religious Liberty: The Supreme Court’s Misguided Decision”

  1. PC LOVER says:

    Great job by the high court, I AM IN TOTAL AGREEMENT !!

  2. Lin says:

    I believe in freedom of choice
    I believe in freedom of religion

    Court made the right decision — there is legal protection for the freedom to choose but Hobby Lobby should have the freedom to choose not to pay for procedures outside of their beliefs
    Hobby Lobby policy is well known
    Don’t work there if you don’t like the policy

    Or stand up for your own life choices and pay for it yourself

  3. John Smallberries says:

    Yet another terrible ruling by a terrible supreme court.

  4. Laurie says:

    OUTSTANDING wonderful ruling by the Supreme Court!! Yay for Hobby Lobby!!

  5. THE VOICE OF REASON says:

    People who take a job with Hobby Lobby know how that system works. They do not have a leg to stand on — and the Supreme Court agrees — when they don’t agree with the system that was in place before they were hired.

    If they want something that system doesn’t offer, they should work elsewhere.

  6. Allen Stevens says:

    The worse decision that the supreme court could make. Corporations are NOT a person. The constitution does not protect corporations, it only states that citizens (people) are protected only. Women’s suffrage is STILL alive, and only the GOPTP justices (that’s a joke) voted for HL. Now we know what these old guys ideology is regarding women issues. And for those that say don’t work there, with jobs scarce, people have to take what they can get, they can’t be picky. Sad, sad day for women and the Constitution!!!

  7. A.S.F. says:

    Gee, all these congrats on the Supreme Court ruling from Conservatives who apparently believe that giving power to employers to override the religious beliefs and practices of its employees is OK–even as regards health practices and matters pertaining to the bedroom. However, they are amazingly silent about the Conservative majority on the court defending their actions on the basis that it will not REALLY create a hardship for the women involved. And why not? BECAUSE THEY STATE THAT WOMEN CAN APPLY TO THE GOVERNMENT FOR SAID EMPLOYER DENIED COVERAGE FOR CONTRACEPTION! So, there you have it, folks. The party of “the big bad government pays for too much” is now saying that the American taxpayer should literally pay for the religious “freedom” of certain employers. Inconsistent, to say the least, not to mention hypocritical and biased.

    • Just saying says:

      If she doesn’t like the government mandated benefit offered by her company she is free to purchase a policy on her own through the government mandated health exchanges.

  8. I/M/O says:

    If the Robert’s Court had ruled that the mandate is a “TAX” then to “TAX” the owner of a company for their Religious beliefs is of course UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Doesn’t matter if they own a company or not.

    King George “TAXED” those in the British colonies’ who were not members of the Church of England. He would not recognize marriages performed outside the Church of England. King George had those people arrested as “Committing Adultery” and levied fines against them.

    Our forefathers fought a revolution over things like that. Then they wrote the First Amendment into the Constitution to make sure government could never do what King George had been doing ever again.

    So here we are today. If our government does not like or agree with your religious beliefs they can Tax or Fine you.

    The SCOTUS got this case right.

  9. Brad says:

    This entire article is one of the most absurd opinions on the matter, and especially from someone who seems to advocate for freedoms.

    1. The First Amendment was written to protect religious freedom and NOT silence it. What freedom can any of us have if we can not have the freedom to practice and express our beliefs both individually and as religious communities? The answer is none. The idea of “separation of Church and State”, as Thomas Jefferson phrased it in his response to the Puritans wanting to establish a National Religion, was to point out tat a society can not be truly free if religious freedom is not protected and to allow people to choose. The idea does NOT imply at all (as so many grossly misinterpret the phrase and idea) that religion must be behind closed doors or without a voice.

    2. Corporations and companies have freedoms as well. The author of this article implies that all corporations should run themselves in line with what she deems is appropriate for success. The truth is that the market always decides. But Hobby Lobby has been operating since 1972 and has grown to a revenue base of over $3 billion/year. They must be doing something right. And interestingly enough, the matter of government mandates of particular coverages has not been something the employees of Hobby Lobby have taken to the streets arguing against. The only ones wailing are those with issues with religion have a voice and influence in our society.

    3. Not agreeing with one’s personal beliefs does NOT mean one is “discriminating”. There is this trend lately that if one does not agree or seems intolerant of something then they are “discriminating”, and the truth is that is not true. Tolerance and the fight for rights is a two-way street. We can not expect the religious to change their value system and be “understanding” or “tolerant” while not expecting the same from the non-religious to be understanding and tolerant of the religious groups’ values and beliefs.

    It is very concerning to see a society that seems to be adopting a mindset that government is the solution to everything and it is ok to take freedoms away from others whether they be individuals, groups, or corporations. All the while these same individuals are forgetting that once you allow that and tolerate that, you have just opened the door very wide to lose many of your own personal freedoms.

  10. skeptic says:

    What’s missing in all of these “hairpulling” stories about the Hobby Lobby ruling are the details. The fact is that only four (4) contraceptive devices were ruled out of the coverage. They are 2 morning after pills ( Plan B & ELLA), and 2 IUD’s ( Hormonal & Copper). There are still about a gazillion contraceptive devices available to Hobby Lobby employees.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Nope. The Great Sam The Sham Justice Ailito changed his mind (or got a call from his Corporatist bosses) and withdrew the portion of his published Opinion that declared this was merely a narrow ruling that only covered 4 types of birth control devices. Less than twelve hours after he presented it as his well studied and oh so serious scholarly legal opinion, he said “Nevermind, I meant it covers ALL forms of birth control.”

      I mean you just can’t make this shit up here in the Corporate Paradise we used to call the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Watched over with Loving Grace by the best Supreme Court money can buy.

  11. Steve Wolfe says:

    Religious freedom is already the law of the land. SCOTUS exists to check whether legislation is consistent with the Constitution, and they did their job in this case (but not always- consistency is not one of their hallmarks). But even if this is viewed as an exemption, it is not unique, it’s just another. And liberty is guaranteed in the Constitution, assured by the law, and everyone should pay a share to protect it. Obamacare isn’t liberty, it’s forced institutionalism. Just get in line with your tin cup.

  12. Bill says:

    Great post to many think tolerance is having others change their views to meet theirs. True tolerance is NOT forcing others to accept your views but all of us accepting that we all have different views and then agreeing to disagree on some of them.

  13. NortonSmitty says:

    A fine example of Conservative Christian Pretzel Logic. I have read a bit of the Bible in my younger days when I thought I might be salvageable. And not just for all the sex and violence either. And I seem to remember one of the main tenets, it;s been so long, I think there was about a dozen main ones. Maybe less. But I distinctly remember one of the most important ones was Thou Shalt Not Kill. Period. No exceptions. No exceptions for defending your country, policemen or executioners. You are in no way to kill another human being. The question is did God consider you Human if you haven’t yet been born? I don’t know. You don’t either. As the savage in the story says, “That is a question for wise old men with skinny arms.” But there are NO exceptions for killing if He did..

    He talked of Sacrifices and cooking animals of course so that’s OK. And I don’t know what the people of Jericho and the Philistines did to piss God off, but he evidently didn’t consider them covered under the umbrella of Human. In fact the God of the Old Testament didn’t seem too fond of any of us Gentiles. He did say we made good slaves though.

    But back to the point, does this ruling mean that I can deduct the 75% of the Federal taxes that go to support the Military, CIA and Homeland Security? Because it is obviously in violation of Christian principles to support killing other people in any way for any reason.

    After this asinine ruling it is impossible to think otherwise.

  14. NortonSmitty says:

    A fine example of Conservative Christian Pretzel Logic. I have read a bit of the Bible in my younger days when I thought I might be salvageable. And not just for all the sex and violence either. And I seem to remember one of the main tenets, it;s been so long, I think there was about a dozen main ones. Maybe less. But I distinctly remember one of the most important ones was Thou Shalt Not Kill. Period. No exceptions. No exceptions for defending your country, policemen or executioners. You are in no way to kill another human being. The question is did God consider you Human if you haven’t yet been born? I don’t know. You don’t either. As the savage in the story says, “That is a question for wise old men with skinny arms.” But there are NO exceptions for killing if He did..

    He talked of Sacrifices and cooking animals of course so that’s OK. And I don’t know what the people of Jericho and the Philistines did to piss God off, but he evidently didn’t consider them covered under the umbrella of Human. In fact the God of the Old Testament didn’t seem too fond of any of us Gentiles. He did say we made good slaves though.

    But back to the point, does this ruling mean that I can deduct the 75% of the Federal taxes that go to support the Military, CIA and Homeland Security? Because it is obviously in violation of Christian principles to use my money to support killing other people in any way for any reason.

    After this asinine ruling it is impossible to think otherwise.

  15. A.S.F. says:

    I think leaving your employer-based health care coverage decisions up to your ermployer’s religious dictates, rather than letting it remain between you and your doctor, is a mistake. And it is an outrageous mistake coming from the conveniently hypocritical mind-set of Conservatives who, not so long ago, tried to defeat the ACA on the basis that it would take too much of the control for healthcare decisions away from the patient and his/her doctor. And I am pretty sick of a Supreme Court that seems more and more determined to protect the freedoms of speech and religious expression of Corporations at such great cost to individual citizens. That is NOT the principle that this country was founded on.

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