Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why Religious Interference By Employers Is A Bad Business Practice

After the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010 that American corporations  have the constitutional right to free speech, it's no surprise that SCOTUS would  grant them freedom of religion as well (closely held ones anyway, e.g. those owned by families) . This is what happened on June 30 in the Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision, which allows employers to refuse to follow the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") regarding the requirement to pay for women's contraceptives in their company health plans. As I understand it, this includes employees who are co-paying for such insurance.  However, in the latter cases there may be a recourse for these workers available through  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The USDHHS   has a plan for use by religious-nonprofit organization whereby the employer's insurance company covers the employee directly for the cost of her contraceptives. Supposedly, this system  could be expanded to include workers at for-profit corporations as well.

Also this ruling is  limited to the issue of contraceptives and supposedly could not be used as a precedent  (um, yeah) for other types of religious meddling by employers, such as a Jehovah's Witness owned corporation whose company health plan refuses to cover the cost of blood transfusions. But that leads to the question: What is so special about contraceptives as compared to other forms of health protection that allows employers to invoke "religious principles" as a reason to refuse including them in their company in their group insurance plans? Why do they have this obsession with the sex life of their employees?

Moreover, big business and conservative Christians have a peculiar perspective about corporations: That this type of organization should have a special legal status that enables it to conduct business transactions as a separate entity from its shareholders and which protects them from lawsuits and other legal actions that might be filed against the corporation itself  Yet at the same time the businesses /  conservative Christians  support the endowment of  corporations with the status of "personhood"  (which is a standing that it does have in the eyes of the law) and extend the meaning of that word to include, as mentioned above, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. What's next? Designation of corporations as fully human so that the state can't ever revoke their  charters, as this would constitute cruel and unusual punishment?

But this whole uproar simply points out that employees shouldn't have to rely on their employers for insurance in the first place. The Affordable Care Act doesn't go far enough in dealing with this problem.. A more realistic and long overdue solution is is Medicare for all. If this coverage were ever enacted, Americans would have access to health care as a fundamental human right like the rest of the civilized world, not as a privilege. And it would be one less opportunity for conservative Christian owned Christians  to impose their religious beliefs on others.

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