I'll start with the overall good news: it could have been much worse.
This ruling only applies to 4 of the contraceptives listed under the HHS mandate, which the Green and Hahn families have labeled as abortifacients and don't want to be associated with. They have no objection to the other 16 contraceptive methods. Employees can still gain access to these 4 drugs either through use of their own money (argument being that the companies are still paying them a salary, so they are still providing them with the opportunity to purchase the contraceptives themselves) or through the government. Also, the court made sure to point out that this does not mean that corporations can refuse to provide coverage for blood transfusions, etc. So, that's good news, because there's a fear that this will set a dangerous precedent that can be taken advantage of by corporations that might be run by members of groups such as the Christian Scientists who might object to any medical care on religious grounds. Also, this ruling only applies to closely-held corporations with more than 50 employees.
So, this could have been worse.
Now the bad news: while this could have been worse, and there's some hope, this is bad just because it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what religious freedom actually means. When my friend and I walked over to the court to get our copies of the opinions, we saw the mass of protesters out front. There was a large group of people holding #TEAMLIFE signs, jumping up and down shouting the I Believe chant and screaming how religious freedom would win the day. All I've heard is how this is a huge victory for religious freedom. Many seem to feel that this court is proving to be a court which supports religious freedom. But religious freedom for whom? In Greece v. Galloway, they ruled in favor of Christian freedom, not religious freedom, and I'd say the same has happened here, except it's an even more limited ruling. This is not a ruling in favor of religious freedom; this is a ruling in favor of freedom for a few Christians to project their beliefs onto other people.
Say all you want about how the Greens and the Hahns have a right to their religious freedom. Of course they do. They have the right to make choices based on their beliefs. But they are not their corporations. A corporation is made up of many different people of diverse backgrounds, almost like a microcosm of a nation. Just like the President shouldn't be able to use his beliefs to shape the nation's policies, corporate leaders should not be able to dictate based on their beliefs. This ruling is essentially saying that the employees' opinions don't matter. If you own a corporation, you can do what you want, and your First Amendment rights matter. But if you're an employee, you're expected to check your rights at the door when you come to work, because your employer's rights matter more than yours. This shouldn’t be about the question of whether or not corporations are people, it should be a question of whether or not employees are people; because, right now, it sure doesn't seem like the court views them in that way. Entities are more important than individuals.
While I don’t share their view, I respect the fact that the Greens see these drugs as counter to the teachings of their religion because they would have to be associated with killing. They feel that they can't in good conscience be connected with taking life. I would personally be interested in asking them about their perspectives on the death penalty, but that's a different discussion. I also respect that they are at least offering to cover the majority of the contraceptives listed in the HHS mandate; but, I don't respect the fact that they think their right to these beliefs trumps their employees' rights to their own beliefs and to their right to choose whether or not to use contraceptives.
Baptists, once upon a time, were the minority in this country. They faced immense persecution. Figures, such as Roger Williams and Obadiah Holmes, fought for the rights of all to exercise their religion freely and make their own choices. To support the decision of the Green and Hahn families to limit their employees’ rights has no grounding in the Constitution, in Christianity, or in the Baptist tradition.
This could have been worse.
But it’s still pretty bad.
Adam McDuffie is a senior at Wake Forest University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Religion with a concentration in Religion and Public Engagement. After graduation, Adam plans to attend seminary and pursue a career as a hospital chaplain. Originally from Brevard, NC, Adam has spent most of his life in TN, and currently resides in the thriving town of Atoka. Born in the aftermath of the SBC/CBF schism and the son of a Baptist minister, Adam is passionate about all things related to Baptist life and history. When not having his heart broken by the Demon Deacons, Adam finds time to be an avid Atlanta Braves fan and an even more avid fisherman.