What's Good for the Goose

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Not only are corporations people, my friend, but they have religious beliefs. That's the Romneyesque claim at the heart of the recently argued Supreme Court case that would allow corporate employers, based on their owners' religious objections, to deny their workers contraceptive coverage required by the Affordable Care Act.

You may wonder how the lead challenger in the case, Hobby Lobby, a for-profit arts-and-crafts chain with 13,000 employees, practices its Christian faith.  Maybe it attends a big-box megachurch.or preaches the prosperity gospel.  Would we tail its owners or its employees to find out?  Never mind that the whole point of treating corporations as "people" for legal purposes is to distinguish them from their owners, so the owners don't have to pay the company's bills.

I'm also curious if the other challenger in the case, a furniture manufacturer called Conestoga Wood, denies insurance coverage for any of its male employees' medical needs based on traditional religious beliefs. I bet if the company refused to cover Viagra for its single male workers based on a religious objection to sex before marriage, the case would at least raise a few more hackles.  Same goes if the owners refused to cover vasectomies for married men based on a religious belief against any non-reproductive sex after marriage.

But funny how religious freedom these days is all about denying women essential health care coverage or refusing gay people basic services.  It's no accident that the "Can't Cover the Contraception" cases ride on the heels of Arizona's recently vetoed, and Mississippi's soon-to-be enacted, "Turn Away the Gays" bills. The lawsuits and the legislation are part of a concerted and conservative "religious liberty" movement that is hell bent on rewriting free exercise law to carve out religious exemptions to civil rights laws -- even if it harms other people.  

Welcome, my friend, to a brave new world in which corporations have found religion, and real people have lost their conscience.


With a Perspective, I'm Clyde Wadsworth.

Clyde Wadsworth is an attorney practicing business and civil rights law.