Hobby Lobby’s flesh-and-blood owners score a win

The Obama administration says employees of any company are “Autonomous human beings with rights and beliefs of their own.”

Hobby Lobby

Interestingly, the administration makes no mention of the men and women who own such companies; whose money and reputations are risked on their success; and whose dreams and sense of character may be tied to the products they sell.

Maybe it hearkens to the notion that corporations are not people — that piece of nonsense that got Mitt Romney in trouble while campaigning.

Last I checked, the Hobby Lobby people suing the government have flesh and blood and breathe actual air.

Regardless, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals showed some glimmers of common sense this week by granting the owners of Hobby Lobby a reprieve from harsh fines while they petition the courts to get out from under Obamacare’s looming mandate requiring them, and all businesses over a certain size, to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. They sent to case back down to a court in Oklahoma City. (Read a report here.)

Hobby Lobby’s lawyers said the company was facing fines of up to $1.3 million per day if they didn’t comply with Washington’s mandate to provide contraceptive coverage, including for the so-called “morning after” pill when the law takes effect July 1.

While the court’s action does little more than grant the company time to litigate its concerns, the judges took the extraordinary step of saying Hobby Lobby had a reasonable chance of success.

“Sincerely religious persons could find a connection between the exercise of religion and the pursuit of profit,” the judges wrote. “Would an incorporated kosher butcher really have no claim to challenge a regulation mandating non-kosher butchering practices?”

Some may question that comparison, as such a mandate on a kosher butcher would affect the product the business itself produces, whereas Hobby Lobby is being told only to provide a type of coverage for employees. But clearly, both types of mandates would violate a business owner’s conscience and force him or her to do something with which they fundamentally disagree.

Employees clearly have a choice of where to work, especially in retail. It seems strange to allow a company to control the level offered as a worker’s salary but not the benefits attached to that job.

More than 30 businesses nationwide have sued for relief from the contraceptive mandate. Should they prevail, several other businesses whose owners call themselves biblically based would seek similar exemptions.

The administration reacts with apoplexy to the idea that corporations have rights of conscience. “Congress did not give for-profit corporations the right to evade federal regulation in the name of their shareholders’ religious freedom,” the Justice Department has argued.

It’s the old corporations-aren’t-people argument.

Hobby Lobby also closes its doors on Sundays, which must cost the bottom line a good share of money. It is the kind of decision, however, that only flesh-and-blood people would make.

Categories: Politics, Washington

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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