A Word In Edgewise: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.: Rats in the Granary; Canaries in the Mine


SCOTUS’s ruling for Hobby Lobby Stores: Not that big a deal? A disaster for women’s health care? There’s plenty of ink on both sides, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s 35-page scathing dissent. Too much to cover here, but consider these points.

It is a very limited ruling applying only to companies where five or fewer shareholders hold 50 percent of the shares and a common belief. According to TIME, over 90 percent of all American businesses are closely held, and some 52 percent of the American workforce works for such a corporation.

Hobby Lobby is only objecting to what it believes are abortificants, many other contraceptive pills are still available. They only disallowed four methods, but as Daily Kos points out, these devices do not cause abortions. Three of the four methods actually prevent ovulation. Hobby Lobby’s “beliefs” trumped scientific fact.

Hobby Lobby offers high wages, benefits and 401(k) plan. They also invest millions in companies making the very devices they can now refuse their women employees. Many of their products are made in China where abortion is frequent and often coerced.

Hobby Lobby and other closely held corporations are now protected from government interference in the exercise of their religion. So far, the protected religion is white, fundamentalist Christianity. The verdict isn’t in on the protection of religious beliefs of a closely held Sharia corporation or any other of the non-Christian religions still allowed to worship in this country.

Hillary Clinton disagreed “with the reasoning as well as the conclusion… You know part of the reason I was so adamant about including women and girls in our foreign policy, not as a luxury, but as a central issue, is because they’re often the canaries in the mine.”

Just as there’s never a single rat in a granary, this decision will be teased and nibbled at until the floodgates—what Justice Ginsberg called a “minefield,” will be wide open. The day after the 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.”

Justice Ginsberg is right on the money. The canary is gasping and there is more—much more—to come.

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