Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Closely-Held Business

You can read the latest installment of my "Patient Body" column at The Revealer! I look at the current cases pending in the US Supreme Court, brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, that challenge employees' rights to full health care coverage. Here's an excerpt:

Conflating Conestoga Wood Specialties with the Hahn family, which the repeated use of “closely-held” means to do, is a way to erase the separation between the family and the corporation. Non-profits are exempt from some general laws that are otherwise meant to protect the rights of workers. Why aren’t “closely-held” corporations? The real question before the US Supreme Court then, despite the other many arguments for and against the “contraception mandate,” is this: whose beliefs are more important, an employer’s or an employee’s?
The Conestoga appeal states:
The question presented is exceptionally important. Our nation was founded on freedom of religion, and our free-enterprise system allows entrepreneurs to pursue profit while also serving the common good. But the decision below puts these two foundational principles at odds. Must religious believers check their consciences at the door of their businesses, or may they generally live integrated lives of faith at work?
In other words, you own the business, you decide what “lives of faith” look like there. In a dissenting opinion of the district court decision Judge Kent Jordan wrote, “The government takes us down a rabbit hole where religious rights are determined by the tax code, with nonprofit corporations able to express religious sentiments while for-profit corporations and their owners are told that business is business and faith is irrelevant. Meanwhile, up on the surface, where people try to live lives of integrity and purpose, that kind of division sounds as hollow as it truly is.”
But what of Conestoga employees’ “integrity and purpose?” What must they check at the door? While contraception–and abortion, for that matter–are legal, and discrimination against employees for race, gender, disability or religion is clearly illegal, the question of an employee’s rights is swept away in the structural details of the case.


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