Today is the day that the Supreme Court will hand down two very important rulings.
The Hobby Lobby case will decide if for-profit companies can claim a religious exemption for health insurance coverage they say makes the Baby Jesus cry.
The challenge was brought by the Southern Baptist owners of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain, and the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood, a cabinet maker. Both sued for relief from a mandate under Obamacare that profit-making businesses include emergency contraceptives for female employees in their insurance plans at no extra cost. They said the requirement to cover contraceptives like Plan B and Ella violates their religious liberty.
The Court is also set to rule on whether or not public employee unions can basically survive.
The case, Harris v. Quinn, is about the constitutionality of “agency fees” charged by public sector unions to all workers in a unionized setting, even non-union members. These fees are essential to their operation.
The Hobby Lobby case isn’t so much about religious freedom as it is about control. The healthcare law does not require the employers to pay for their workers’ birth control; it allows the employees to avail themselves of contraception at no extra cost. But somehow the family that owns Hobby Lobby sees that as the road to the abortion clinic and objects to what their employees can do with their own insurance.
If the Court rule in favor of Hobby Lobby, it could set the stage for any company to claim a religious exemption as the reason for doing anything they want to their employees, including denying benefits to couples — same sex or otherwise — if they’re not in keeping with their personal religious beliefs.
In the case of the public unions, the Court will decide if people who benefit from the unions without having to belong to them should pay a fee for those benefits. If they don’t, then the unions could go broke. That’s not something this Court, with its apparent love for the corporate manifest destiny, seems to be too concerned about.
Stay tuned; I’ll try to update the rulings as they come in.
UPDATE: The Court narrowly held for Hobby Lobby in a 5-4 decision, saying that “closely-held” corporations can opt out of contraception coverage based on religious grounds. Stand by for a bunch of corporations becoming “closely-held.” All the Republican-appointed justices — who happen to be men — decided for Hobby Lobby; the four appointed by Democrats voted against it, with some powerful dissenting opinions.
In the public union case, the Court ruled that non-union employees can’t be forced to pay fees to the union.
PS: Any guesses on who might be retiring from the Court after this term? Ginsburg? Scalia (if only)?