Religious Liberty vs. Business

I applaud people investing their money and making products and services people want to patronize, and I also support the freedom of religion.  But recently we’ve seen problematic stories in the news about the religious beliefs of the owners of companies and government. Most recently we’ve seen the refusal of Oklahoma-based craft store Hobby Lobby to carry the “morning-after pill” because it “leads to termination of pregnancy,” and then various business owners in states that have opened up marriage to same-sex couples not wanting to do business with Hobby Lobby.

So now we must ask the uncomfortable question:  Should we allow private business owners to defy laws on “moral grounds?”   I think it would be a very dangerous precedent if allowed by our courts. I certainly wouldn’t want a Jehovah’s Witness employer to refuse to cover my blood transfusion if I got in a major medical incident. I would not want a cost-cutting employer to deny medicines for diabetes if I should need them to function properly.

The irony is that craft and hobby stores have a dominant female clientele and they are going to be hurting their female employees big-time with this decision. I remember, during the Sandra Fluke incident earlier in 2012, she was asking for her school’s health plan to cover contraceptives and she got viciously attacked by  Rush Limbaugh.  Economically speaking, health care costs are higher when more items are subsidized and in some cases you can get cheaper prices by paying in cash. However, Americans elected Democrats (for better or worse) and we now have to live with this health care “reform.”  And has Hobby Lobby stopped covering Viagra or any other male-comparable drug?  I thought not.

If we want to prevent “conservative” business owners from “going Galt,” as in Atlas Shrugged where the productive people of society ran away from an “oppressive government,” we need to adopt single-payer health care.  Single-payer would give all of us universal health care that would be free from the dictates of the employer. This would lead to healthier workers and increased productivity.  Nothing prevents people in single-payer health care systems from taking out private health insurance as in the case in the United Kingdom.  If conservatives don’t want abortions … then maybe they shouldn’t have abortions!  We could even pay women to have an IUD device to prevent future abortions from happening which could be a perfect compromise in Obama’s America.

Hobby Lobby should understand that they’re operating a business that serves the public, it is not selective like a church where they can boot people for not believing their principles of “faith,” or  because they’re queer. If you want to do business with the public you have to follow the laws of the government no matter how silly you may think they are. If you don’t like the rules of Caesar, you are more than welcome to change the government by donating money to politicians to make your world view come true.

I was bewildered that Hobby Lobby would dare to open up in California, with this state’s hostile regulatory climate and anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people in the state, but they did, and if Hobby Lobby were allowed to nullify the Obama rules on contraceptives, imagine them demanding to discriminate against LGBT employees in states that have those laws.  However, what LGBT person in their right mind wants to work there? Religious nullification of laws would be very dangerous and outright stupid. If someone’s a Muslim and wants to be a supermarket checkout clerk at Albertson’s, he or she should realize that they will have to handle ham once in a while, and there would be no excuses or a designated ham holder to step in when the time arises.

For the photographer, innkeeper and the trolley owner who refuses to do business because there are same sex couples in our society, I ask:  Who in their right mind wants to turn down customers in today’s economy? I may feel uncomfortable serving customers with face tattoos where the individuals likely came back from prison, but I serve them with the best professionalism I can offer. We do not need to carry a Four Square type application to find out which businesses do not want to serve LGBT people or which businesses those are inclusive to LGBT people. That is why there are public accommodation laws. Anarchy would indeed give us liberty, but anarchy would be one massive headache if the Burger King refuses to serve black people and the McDonald’s across the street do not want to serve Asians.

About Matt Munson