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On abortion, Hobby Lobby looking wobbly.

The owners of Hobby Lobby want you to know they take their moral commitments seriously. The Green family's stores don't sell shot glasses. They're closed on Sundays. They don't even allow their trucks to "back-haul" beer shipments. As supporter Ben Domenech pointed out, all those practices "could make them money, but they just bear the costs." The Greens are so serious about their Christian beliefs that they've made a federal case out of their objection to paying insurance premiums that would allow their employees to choose to receive contraceptive products that the Greens deem no different from abortion. "I doubt this is the type of company to spend one dime on this contraception mandate," Domenech wrote. "They will just drop coverage, and pay employees the difference...rather than compromise their beliefs." Except now it looks like they've been doing just that--for quite some time.

At Mother Jones, Molly Redden reports that Hobby Lobby's employee retirement plan "held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions." And Hobby Lobby makes significant matching contributions to the 401(k)--nearly $4 million in 2012, according to the company's 2013 disclosure to the Department of Labor. In other words, Hobby Lobby invests millions in companies that manufacture the very products they want to be exempt from covering in their employee health plans--products they believe cause abortions. As Redden notes, other holdings in Hobby Lobby's mutual funds include companies that make drugs used to induce abortion, drugs administered during abortion procedures, and insurers that cover surgical abortions.

This raises an obvious question: If the Greens are so committed to the belief that they cannot in good conscience pay health-insurance premiums that might result in employees using products that could prevent the implantation of fertilized eggs, then why are they OK with spending millions annually on companies that manufacture drugs that will certainly cause abortions? In other words, as Nick Baumann put it, "either remote cooperation with abortifacients is a red line for you or it's not."

Now, the Greens aren't Catholic, but their argument is essentially that they should not be made to cooperate in any way with the provision of contraceptive services they consider definitely or potentially abortifacient. That is, they cannot abide what Catholics would call remote material cooperation with evil (in this case, abortion). Of course, it's arguable that to the extent that they've been paying insurance companies that cover elective abortions--like the ones in which they invest on behalf of their employees--they are already remotely cooperating with what they consider evil. Because most insurers do cover elective abortion for some customers. But apparently that doesn't trouble them. What disturbs the family's conscience is paying for coverage that might end up preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

The problem for Hobby Lobby's argument is that investing in companies that manufacture drugs and devices that enable contraception and abortion is different from paying for insurance that enables an employee to choose whether to use services the Greens object to. Hobby Lobby selects the funds it invests in. As Redden points out, if the Greens wanted to, they could have chosen funds that screen out so-called sin stocks (they tend to perform as well as other funds). But they didn't. (Hobby Lobby's legal counsel, the Becket Fund, did not reply to requests for comment.)

Hobby Lobby's employee health insurance used to include the contraception services the Greens don't want to cover anymore. Obamacare did the Greens a favor by waking them up to the realities of the health-insurance market, so before filing suit they canceled coverage of the services they consider morally objectionable. But they seem have not been so scrupulous with their investments--and investments are a different animal. The cooperation is more direct.

Basically Hobby Lobby is saying to these fund managers: Here's our money. Make more of it for us doing what you do. From a moral-theological perspective, that brings Hobby Lobby significantly closer to the "evil" in question than would any premium payments that could allow employees to use contraceptive services. First, in the United States, benefits are considered part of an employee's compensation. Second, employees might not avail themselves of such services. Third, if the Greens decided to stop offering health coverage, employees would most likely end up buying plans that included contraception on the health-care exchanges. (Obamacare does not require any employers to cover drugs designed to induce abortion.)

What might last week's oral arguments have sounded like had this been reported earlier? Hard to say. But who would want to defend a plaintiff claiming that any role facilitating the use of potentially abortifacient drugs is inimical to its religious beliefs but who can't be bothered to figure out whether the millions it invests annually directly supports the production of drugs that always cause abortions? And if a justice or two starts wondering how sincerely Hobby Lobby holds the beliefs it says ought to exempt them from the law, who could blame them?



Commenting Guidelines

Quelle surprise!  

I'm shocked that Hobby Lobby owners, despite being devout Christians, are capable of such hypocrisy.

Go figure!  

I still think that Scalia and his posse of Catholic boys on SCOTUS will twist themselves into intellectual pretzels in deciding for Hobby Lobby.

The Green family met with Pope Francis yesterday:

Pope Francis met Monday with members of the Green family, the Oklahoma billionaires whose company, Hobby Lobby, took their challenge to Obama's contraception mandate to the Supreme Court last week....

The Greens are in Rome for the launch of one of their traveling exhibits, "Verbum Domini II" (Latin for "The Word of the Lord").

The purpose of the meeting was to thank the pope for the loan of items to the exhibit from the Vatican museum and library," said Jennifer Sheran of DeMoss, the Atlanta public relations firm that represents the Greens. "The pope did ask how the (Hobby Lobby) case was progressing."

Eighteen members of the Green family met with the pope, Sheran said, as well as 10 members from the American Bible Society. The meeting lasted 30 minutes.

"The pope did ask how the (Hobby Lobby) case was progressing."

The implication here by the PR person is that Pope Francis is vitally interested in the outcome of their case against the contraception mandate currently being decided in our Supreme Court.

This spin needs to be investigated. 

If true, my guess is that a member of the Green family brought it up and the Pope responded with a noncommittal comment.

Although I hope Hobby Lobby does not prevail, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here.  I suspect they just never thought of checking what they were investing in.

That said,Hobby Lobby has an easy out that they are refusing to take.  They can stop providing insurance, pay a $2000 per employee per year tax (which is comparable to the cost of insurance if you consider that many employees will have families) and the employees get insurance on the exchanges. The tax compensates the government for the subsidies most employees will receive.  This is a completely legal and practical way to handle the employer mandate.  Problem solved.

If Hobby Lobby prevails, enforcing any federal law against corporations will be impossible for practical purposes.  A corporation could claim Christian Science beliefs and offer a health insurance plan that that only funds hiring a Christian Science practitioner.  A company could claim religious exemptions to environmental laws or minimum wage laws or industrial safety laws.  And remember, in Dukes v. Walmart, the Supreme Court virtually banned class action suits against employers.  We would be right back in the year 1890 when corporations could do whatever they pleased.

Hypocrisy seems to follow religious absolutists.  As far as their case goes I don't see how they have any legal case at all. They have no right to make ethical judgments for their employees. Period. I don't see any basis for SCOTUS to rule in their favor. But these are sad days for the Supreme Court. 

Pace Paul Baumann, we're talking about degrees of remoteness here.  We're also talking about who is the moral agent who gets to determine degrees of remoteness.

Which is more remote: to pay premiums to an insurance company that pays for an employee's contraception; or to set up a separate corporation under a separate set of directors that puts together a portfolio of retirement fund offerings that employees can choose to pay into and for which the company will match a certain percentage of those pay-ins, each component of the portfolio also under independent direction and investing in hundreds or thousands of different investment securities for periods of time that may range from several years to several milliseconds, a handful of which represent small fractions of ownership in companies whose portfolio of several to several dozen to several hundred different products and product lines may pose moral issues and the fluctuations in whose stock prices may or may not reflect any profit or loss of those morally problematic products?

Who can say?

Saying "neither is problematic" may be reasonable.  Saying "both are problematic" may be reasonable.  Saying "the first is problematic but the second isn't" may be reasonable.

I would say that those who hold a stake in the calculus get to decide.  


Before reading here I saw the Mother Jones article and the first thought that popped into my mind was that "Hypocrisy has become a hobby" with these folks.

Their "lobby" is looking more disgusting by the moment.


 A corporation could claim Christian Science beliefs and offer a health insurance plan that that only funds hiring a Christian Science practitioner.


Yes, and a corporation owned by fundamentalists could refuse to hire Catholics who they know are the "spawn of Satan."

Be careful of what you wish for because it can come back to bit you in your religious freedom aspidistra.

On the earlier post about this, one commenter dismissed this by stating that a 401K plan is not Hobby Lobby - it is a separate entity.

And my response - and how is this different from purchasing a medical plan from an insurance company - the insurance company is a separate enitity.  Really does become ridiculous.

JP - so, what is your point?  In fact, Grant clearly shows that setting up the investment firm is a more direct form of cooperation than purchasing an insurance plan (you appear to disagree?)

Again, from a purely analytical and objective angle, one really does have to seriously question the point of the Greens and the Beckett Fund. 

Might want to repost some of Cathleen Kaveny's earlier posts about birth control and catholic *cults*?

The answer is obvious. Hobby Lobby is profiting from those investments. For conservatives, profit trumps "life."

I expect that someone is now investigating the Little Sisters of the Poor for telltale signs of hypocrisy.  Apparently many are eager to cast the first stone and are not reluctant to issue an immediate harsh judgment, all in the name of minimizing the scope of religious freedom.  Beyond amazing! before filing suit they canceled coverage of the services they consider morally objectionable.

It sounds as if someone (the Becket Fund?) may have been searching for a client here and found Hobby Lobby in much the way the Thomas More Law Center found the Dover, PA, school board a few years ago. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, and maybe even a good thing to have activist law firms sharpening the consciences of the insufficiently scrupulous. Another benefit of the ACA, this one unplanned, is prodding lax Christians to reexamine their remote cooperation with evil.

Still, it's an endless task, because almost anything in this world can be turned to evil by us perverse humans. And is it not, in fact, the bad use we make of things, rather than the things themselves, that is evil? What harm, for example, has an innocent shot glass ever willed? So if the owners of Hobby Lobby want to be safe from all possible contamination, they must stop enabling potential wickedness by paying wages. And as this case shows, they must deal with the most urgent threat by dismissing women employees first. Sad, very sad, but it's the godly thing to do.


Hobby Lobby also sells items made in China, the forced-abortion capital of the world.

Anybody here ever tried to research ways to invest pension funds? There are rules and regs, fed and sometimes state. Employees may have a range of choices. Companies have fiduciary responsbilities to their employees. In the case of 401(k), employees own the pensions, not the company. Amazing that the employees have a pension at all in this day and age. 401(ks) usually involve contributions from the employees and the company. Catching out Hobby Lobby on this doesn't mean their hypocrites. It may just mean they are subject to pension laws, employee choices, and the investment fund that chooses where the money goes. Not so simple.

With all due respect, Ms. Steinfels, the folks at Forbes are rather flabbergasted that Hobby Lobby's inconsistency and claim that every corporation with a 401K has ample opportunity to review and individually select funds that cohere with their goals:

"You may be thinking that it must have been beyond Hobby Lobby’s reasonable abilities to know what companies were being invested in by the mutual  funds purchased for the Hobby Lobby 401(k) plans—but I am afraid you would be wrong.

No only does Hobby Lobby have an obligation to know what their sponsored 401(k) is investing in for the benefit of their employees, it turns out that there are ample opportunities for the retirement fund to invest in mutual funds that are specifically screened to avoid any religiously offensive products."

I would give Hobby Lobby the benefit of the doubt.  If you look at the list of investments here

(see the last page). There are no individual companies listed. All their holdings are in 24 mutual funds with names like "The American Funds Group American Balanced Fund" (that fund represents about $17 million out of $100 million in pension fund money).

There is no indication of which individual company stocks each of those mutual funds holds.

Of course, that information is available and Hobby Lobby could have told someone to check out each of the 24 mutual funds to be sure that none of them invested in companies that produced morally suspect products.  I suspect that they just didn't think of it. 

Since mutual funds go into and out of investments frequently, the only way Hobby Lobby could avoid this problem over a long period of time would be to invest only in mutual funds that were committed to not investing in companies that did things of which Hobby Lobby didn't approve. 


"I suspect that they just didn't think of it."  - No excuse.

Also suggest: Holly Lobby fire the Becket Frund for negligence.  :-)


Hmmm!! Anyone here ever tried to find a totally sin-free investment fund. There are the no tobacco-no liquor ones. There are the no-war materials ones. Then there are funds that don't invest in Catepillar and Boeing, etc. What about funds that buy up water systems, or whole forests, etc.  Good luck!!!

I forgot: the ones that don't use animals in their research.

Catholic support for Hobby Lobby is well nigh universal if the Amici Curiae Briefs filed with the Supreme Court were a true gauge of that support; namely: 67 Catholic Theologians, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Medical Association, Thomas More Law Center, and John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought.

SCOTUSblog lists the all the briefs filed with the Supreme Court for the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases. My list of the Catholic support was based on this list.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the institutional views, but Humanae Vitae is not a First Amendment dogma. I believe John Courtney Murray has said it best:

From the standpoint both of history and of contemporary social reality the only tenable position is that the first two articles of the First Amendment are not articles of faith but articles of peace. Like the rest of the Constitution these provisions are the work of lawyers, not of theologians or even of political theorists. They are not true dogma but only good law. That is praise enough. This, I take it, is the Catholic view. But in thus qualifying it I am not marking it out as just another “sectarian” view. It is in the only view that a citizen with both historical sense and common sense can take.

John Courtney Murray, S.J., We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, p. 56 (1960).



Hey, Ms. Steinfels - well, name an insurance company that doesn't offer medical plans that may cover elective abortions?

And, BTW, while we are being socially consicious, let's look at Hobby Lobby from a comprehensive *pro-life* stance:

- do they sell products manufactured in China or Asia in which both the employees of those manufacturing worksites are barely paid living wages?  may have serious safety/health concerns?

- do they do business that avoids damage to the environment (e.g. trucks, stores, etc.)

Any way, you get the really does become ridiculous just because they have an issue with four contraceptives which may or may not be remote material cooperation.  Can one define *cultic  behaviors*

Right: Beams in everyones eyes!

O tempora, O mores! Senatus haec intellegit, consul videt; hic tamen vivit.


(Well, this IS a Catholic blogsite and Latin seems so very appropriate with dealing with such deep-seated hypocrisy on the part of the Greens)

The issue here is not how difficult it is to find sin-free investment plans. The issue is that a company has tried to make a case to the Supreme Court over an issue of conscience and they have not explored the content of their investments.

This is a big deal, deleting Joe Biden's expletive.

The government opens its argument in its brief with this: "The Greens' sincerely held religious opposition to certain forms of contraception is not subject to question in these proceedings, and their personal beliefs merit the full measure of the protection that the Constitution and laws provide."  What is Mr. Gallicho's purpose, then, in questioning what the Government does not? It means nothing whatever as to the resolution of the issue. Neither he nor Mother Jones is in a position to question the Greens' sincerity or the government's view of it. As someone recently said, "Who am I to judge?" And if the Greens  be thought by others inconsistent in their judgments or ill informed, of what interest or importance is that? 

Patrick Molloy:  "Apparently many are eager to cast the first stone and are not reluctant to issue an immediate harsh judgment, all in the name of minimizing the scope of religious freedom.  Beyond amazing!"

Mr. Molloy, believe it or not, liberals are not out to minimize the scope of religious freedom.  We want to balance the freedom of employees with the freedom of (much more powerful) employers.  There is already an out for any employer with moral objections to any part of the health care law.  They can let their employees get insurance through the exhanges and pay the $2000 tax.  When you consider that many employees have dependents, the $2000 is comparable to the cost of providing insurance- it's not a punitive tax.

If the Supreme Court finds in favor of HL, it will unravel a major source of funding tor the Affordable Care Act- the tax on employers who do not provide adequate insurance.  An company that pays minimum wage employees and has never provided insurance could claim a religious exemption from providing any effective care.  Many religious people believe mental illness is a moral flaw not an illness:  you would undoubtedly have many employees denied mental health care.  Should a parent have to watch their schizophrenic child disintegrate because of the employer's religious belief?

xuinkrbin:  Can you tell me of any case where the Supreme Court held the  line drawing was up to the adherent?  I know of none.  Those of us who remember the Vietnam war know that the line drawing for conscientious objection was NOT up to the adherent.  The draft law recognized absolute pacifism but disallowed conscientious objection for people who believed in Thomistic "just war" moral theology.  A friend of mine spent 2 years in federal prison because he believed that fighting in Vietnam violated his religious beliefs but admitted he would have fought in World War II.  (It's also the case that polygamy is illegal nationwide, despite the fact that some dissident spinoffs from the Mormon faith require polygamy.)


AE@10:48: "There is already an out for any employer with moral objections to any part of the health care law.  They can let their employees get insurance through the exhanges and pay the $2000 tax.  When you consider that many employees have dependents, the $2000 is comparable to the cost of providing insurance- it's not a punitive tax.'

Why encourage giving employers an out on providing health insurance? And require the employee to pay the full freight?

Liberal crossing paths with libertarians!

I don't see why Grant has to be so snotty about Hobby Lobby . . . the obvious explanation is that with 24 funds invested in up to 100s of different companies that can change at any time, Hobby Lobby simply hadn't been aware of each and every one of the 1000s of different possibilities. But it's really quite silly to suggest that Hobby Lobby's religious beliefs are somehow insincere -- what, they undertook the expense of litigating a case to the Supreme Court just for a lark and they don't even believe in their own position? Come on. 

William H. Dempsey:  The reason it's anyone else's business is that if an employer providing insurance to its employees is free to object to a medical procedure on allegedly religious grounds, then no employees would ever know if they'll have insurance in a given situation.  Would you like to check out of a hospital after receiving a blood transfusion and being handed a six-figure bill, only to be told that your Jehovah's Witness employer won't pay the bill for religious reasons?

It's significant that no corporation has filed an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby.  

Marbgaret O'Btrien Steinfels: Years ago, when Nelson Mandela was still in prison and apartheid was law in South Africa, many investment funds divested themselves of stocks in companies which did business with South Africa.  It can be done.  

Bill - I have several points: (1) in both cases - the insurance case and the 401(k) case - we're talking about degrees of remoteness.  (2) In my view, Hobby Lobby and its employees, not Mother Jones, Commonweal, the federal government nor, of all people on the planet, Joe Biden, should get to decide the permissible degrees of Hobby Lobby's and its employees' remote cooperation with evil.  

What do you think the point is of Mother Jones publishing this piece?  What is the point of Commonweal devoting two separate blog posts to call attention to the Mother Jones piece?  I'm not sure what point there to that exercise except for the one that Patrick has already named.

And yes, as part of point (1) above, I do disagree with Grant.  I don't think setting up a 401(k) (if indeed it is a 401(k) - is that known to be the case?) on behalf of employees, consisting of a number of mutual fund options for the employees to choose from, is a more direct or near form of cooperation with evil than signing a contract with an insurance company, actively working to enroll employees in the insurance company's products, and paying insurance premiums to the insurance company that also, by reason of that contract and activity, subsidizes the employees' consumption of contraception.  Arguably, the 401(k) case is more remote - but, as I've said all along, I also think it's reasonable to determine that the contraception mandate is sufficiently remote.


We live in a world in which evil is abroad.  No news there.  And so we Christians do try to live in a bubble.  That's why we have faith communities.  (Can a corporation be a faith community?)  But the walls of the bubble aren't, and can't be, impermeable.  Part of the cost of living in a society that tolerates a certain amount of evil, is the necessity, as individuals, of learning to tolerate, and even interact with, a certain amount of evil.

Each of us is responsible for figuring out what compromises we need to make with the reality of evil.  Some of us may work for employers whose every action may not always be morally admirable.  I vote for politicians that support abortion.  I vote for politicians that supported the Iraq War.  Many of us, I expect, have family members that have done things we disapprove of or even that have wounded us in some way, but whom we don't shun or cut off.  On the other hand, I also take stands about some things, some of which I've mentioned here in dotCom from time to time.  

I suspect all of us take stands about some things, and let other things slide.  One of the gifts of the church to us is a framework for deciding what to let slide and what to take a stand on.  Hobby Lobby and its owners certainly are fair game for public criticism - they took on that risk when they decided to pursue the lawsuit.


The answer is obvious. Hobby Lobby is profiting from those investments

I don't think it's obvious that this is the case - but it's not obvious that it's not the case, either.

If it is a 401(k) retirement plan, then in my view, whatever profits are generated by the plan morally belong to the employees, not the company.  I suspect that, legally, those profits "belong to" the plan itself, until the employees' holdings are dispersed.  But I don't think that Hobby Lobby can tap into those funds.

On the other hand, I believe there are tax incentives for a company to establish and make matching contributions to a 401(k), so perhaps it's fair to say that Hobby Lobby is financially benefitting from the 401(k).  (But on the third hand, it seems to me that establishing a retirement plan for employees is a virtuous thing, the sort of thing we should be encouraging employers, especially retail employers, to do.  As public policy, I don't object to incentivizing employers to do this - I consider this to be good fiscal policy.  That consideration doesn't really address the question, though, of what if any control the company should exercise in the choice of investments for the employees.)

If the retirement plan is a traditional corporate pension, then perhaps the moral calculus would be somewhat different.  I believe the company may exercise more direct control over a traditional pension.  Perhaps someone knowledgeable about these things could provide more details.

Btw, Margaret, I do go back far enough that I do have a pension waiting for my retirement - it was a perk during my first few years of employment, coming out of college.  I don't think the payout from it upon my retirement, if it hasn't gone belly-up by then - it's rather underfunded - will buy me a cup of coffee every month.  But it's still there.  I expended quite a bit of effort recently trying to track it down.


We live in a country that launched an aggressive war on the basis of what probably a majority of its leading citizens knew or suspected were false pretenses. In our name and for our salvation from terrorism, unfortunates who were designated enemy combatants, although not all were, were tortured. I voted for Barack Obama to put a stop to all of that. He let the perps go unpunished and, despite some slick words, continued the conditions that allow torture. That makes it bipartisan, which means our country will continue doing that sort of thing until someone stronger makes us stop.

Knowing that, It's the almost height of hypocrisy for anybody still living here to go to the Supreme Court over remote cooperation with evil in anything. The height of hypocrisy is when the case goes to court for political purposes.

The problem for "religious liberty" here is "gotcha journalism." The Hobby Lobby Family may (or may not be) sincere, but in a culture with a grossly over-sized legal "community" should we be surprised that they would take their case to the Supreme Court? Getting caught out with pension funds that invest in the companies that manufacture the very drugs to which they object seems immaterial to their claims to the SC. I say that because it is likely that it is the employees who chose the investments from a range of offerings put together probably by an insurance agent or company. In an age of pensionless workers, it's notable that Hobby Lobby contributes anything ($3.8 million isn't that much). This looks like remote, remote cooperation.

The Supreme Court should rule against Hobby Lobby. Corporations, even family-owned ones, don't need more rights than they already have. Will the SC take a lesson from the disaster they created with  Citizens United?

Will the SC take a lesson from the disaster they created with  Citizens United?

Maybe not - I got an alert within the last hour that the SC has also struck down campaign limits.  Don't know what it all means.



Here is the story that the alert I mentioned in my previous comment pointed to.  Looks like there are some limits to the ruling.


Yesterday saw a welcome burst of candor on the part of  Paul Krugman:"I’ve always thought of Obamacare as a sort of Rube Goldberg device. . . It relies on a mandate plus subsidies, rather than full funding via the tax system, in part to keep down the headline spending number. And so on."

In other words, the Obama administration arguments that the conditions of the RFRA (compelling governmental interest, least restrictive means, and substantial burden) have been met and are sufficient to impose a mandate on employers effect a smokescreen so that the CBO rules could be gamed and the numbers would be judged politically acceptable.  A decent history of the ACA would no doubt expose even more acts of, shall we say, lack of candor.  Anyone who paid attention in the last few years is welcome to cite more examples. 


In a better world there would be a hypocrisy of the year award to go along with the lie of the year award.  I don’t think the Hobby Lobby company would come close to winning the former.  The latter, as everyone knows, has already been awarded.

I suppose, on the other hand, if their aim was to discredit HL in the court of public opinion the Mother Jones tactics (even though legally irrelevant) might deserve a Machiavellian of the year award.



Very interesting comment, Mr. Molloy. Obamacare is unnecessarily Rube Goldbergian because it relies 80 percent on the implicit faith and competence of the private sectory (which shows its Republican roots) and only 20 percent on people who care about making it work more than they do about making it profitable. That has been its problem from the start. Unfortunately it has been very difficult to have that argument because of all the smokescreens thrown up by people who oppose, in principle, doing anything for the uninsured. Similarly, Common Core is worse than NCLB on roller skates, but it's impossible to get a hearing for that while the Bush-era initiative by governors of both parties is being pinned to the comparatively innocent coattails of the current president. (I say "comparatively" because, as always, eager to receive affection from the other side of the aisle, the president embraced what is, essentially, the love child of the William and Melinda Gates and the Bradley Foundations.)

With that as background, it should not be surprising if someone who wasn't paying attention to the qualities of birth control pills as an investment when Obama was not president should suddenly get all tense and sweaty about them as a clause in an insurance contract when Obama is president. For the record, I have had contraceptive coverage in my employer (now former employer) policy for more than 25 years and never knew it. If I felt about Obama the way you do, Mr. Molloy, I would be tempted to make something of it now that I know. But for reasons given earlier today, I am not tempted.



@ Patrick Malloy:  Of course the ACA is a Rube Goldberg device!  

It's a Republican idea - the poor dears, they're not that bright.  I'm convinced that much of the rightwing opposition to the law is sourced in that Obama in a brilliant piece of political open-field running adopted Romneycare, but  just adapted it for nationwide use.

[It was a real piece of art how Obama guess right about how the Republican nominating process would turn out in the end, and politically castrated Romney even before the presidential race got underway.  Just brilliant!  If it sounds like I'm crowing, you're right! 7.1 million, baby!]

If you remember, most Democrats favored a "single payer" system like they have in Canada:  Medicare for All!  Most of us wanted at least a "public option."

But NOOOOOOOOOO:  That would have been too much socialized medicine for our right-wing crazies - never mind it would have been a better health insurance delivery system;  never mind that we wouldn't have had to invent all these new "exchanges" and infrastructures because the only thing we would have had to do is expand Medicare overtime to be inclusive of every American.  The bureaucracy is already in place - and the last I check most of my elderly patients just love their Medicare insurance.

Maybe in the not too distant future, California may adopt a single payer system on its own and show the rest of the country how it is done.  California has a huge population - we have the numbers to make the economy of scale work.  All the huffin & puffin in the world by the ACA will not bring down healthcare costs sufficiently to tame the beast.  

The ACA's lenient regulation of insurance companies will not be enough.  Eventually, either America will have to heavily regulate healthcare insurance like we do with public utilities; Or, we will go the way of single payer.  It is all in the economic laws that operate health care delivery systems.

Think of the ACA as a transitional period before we have real singel-payer health care insurance! 

Hobby Lobby's argument is that the contraception mandate burdens its religious liberty because it cannot, as a matter of religious belief, allow itself to participate even remotely in the procurement of drugs and devices it believes cause abortions. A reporter discovered that the whole time the Greens have been advancing this claim their company's employee retirement plan has been investing money in companies that produce abortion drugs. That's not gotcha journalism. It's just journalism.

Hobby Lobby's case turns on financial cooperation. If the Greens refuse to pay for coverage that includes contraception services they say could cause abortions, why are they OK with investing in companies that make drugs designed to cause abortions? That's a fair question. It may not have legal ramifications for Hobby Lobby, but that doesn't mean people who aren't on the Supreme Court can't ask how seriously the Greens take their view of cooperation with evil.

Now, Peggy notes that Hobby Lobby's employees probably "chose the investments from a range of offerings put together probably by an insurance agent or company." True enough. But Hobby Lobby is the customer of its investment firm. If it wanted to, it could ask for a menu that excluded abortion-drug manufacturers. But it didn't do that. In fact, it looks like Hobby Lobby's employees can't even invest in a "socially-responsible" fund. Strange oversight for a family that wants its moral purity protected by the court.

Permalink Angela Stockton: You mist the point. Of couise it's important how the Supreme Court decides the issue. But nothing Mr. Gallicho or Mother Jones say about the Greens has anything to do with that. The government has conceded the sincerity of their beliefs, and that's that. One can only speculate about the purpose of these attacks on the Greens.

There's a difference between an attack and a critique. It would be good if perpetually aggrieved conservatives figured that out.

The question isn't whether Commonweal or anyone else "can" question the sincerity of someone else's sincerity in their religious professions, in this case the Greens', but rather why should they? Here it is irrelevant to the litigation. The government has made it so. And the Greens aren't running for public nor are they TV evangelists. What else might there be?  One possible inference is that the purpose is simply to take a personal whack at people who are advancing a cause with which their critics disagree.  I suppose there must be others. At least I hope so.

This isn't a support group, William, it's an opinion magazine. Where journalists have been known to ask questions about public figures and events.

Mr. Dempsey, The Supreme Court, having ruled in Citizens United that corporations are people (for more than purposes of incorporation), reaffirmed today its solemn holding that money is speech. If the Greens' sincerity is irrelevant to their litigation, anyone's litigation can be irrelevant to common sense. We do need more than the solicitor general's brief or the coming 5-4 decision on the Greens to help us make up our minds about this case.

And, while it is hard to see how anyone can question the sincerity of anyone's religious beliefs, if someone says he worships the sun but sleeps all day one can question his common sense.

Not to worry, Hobby Lobby – the pope is on your side. According to an article on the Catholic News Service website (

“Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., based in Oklahoma City, along with about 15 family members met the pope in a private audience at the Vatican March 31.

When asked whether the pope gave the Green family any words of encouragement, Green, who is a Baptist, said the pope ‘mentioned the issue is important to Catholics.’

"The firm we engaged to defend us has a lot of Catholic connections and he was familiar with that,’ Green said of the pope, adding that the pope also ‘asked when the ruling was going to come down,’ Green said.”


Here is another way to approach this case:

Key points:

- catholic social justice thought starts with the dignity of each person (not a position on birth control medications)

"In the face of poverty, responding to the immediate need is necessary, as is structural change (employment, education, affordable housing, etc). This is why the USCCB emphasizes charity and justice as the “two feet of love in action.”  One of the key elements of her post is the recognition that we are all deeply embedded in personal, familial, social, and cultural realities. Social programs and family life both need to be strengthened to empower those for whom “life is a hill.” We  need a broader and deeper understanding of what constitutes family – so that the inter-generational reality of strong families is captured within our vision of “the answer.” Thus, as she notes, strengthening families headed by single mothers and single fathers can only be done by listening and engaging them."   (this is what the ACA attempts to do vs. the Green's individualistic moralistic belief)

- in the face of much of the argumentation that someone has to draw a line in the sand morally:

"We seem to have hit a point where we are on a merry-go-round, unable to break free from a familiar pattern. Personally, I find it particularly difficult to keep blogging about the same issues – because actual data doesn’t seem to make a difference in the public debate. And yet, I want to make a strong case that the loud and constant debunking of claims about poverty and poor persons is absolutely necessary for the common good. Personal responsibility, as self-determination, agency, and empowered participation is absolutely crucial. Personal responsibility as an ideological weapon is an attack on the human dignity of persons in and near poverty. Part of why I find treating it as an ideological battle cry incredibly dangerous is in doing so one misses the assumption of one’s own moral superiority, which is latent within the use of this language.

NOTE the last line - *assumption of one's own moral superiority*   (whatever the assumed report about the Vatican meeting was, am sure that Francis sees this as a much more complex issue - he lived and worked in the slums of Buenos Aries - he is not starry eyed)

Not one other person in the world has to share Hobby Lobby's belief, as long as they hold it sincerely. They do not have to justify their belief that they should not do this (provide insurance covering contraception).

Even if they were Catholics, it wouldn't matter how many Catholic moral theologians the government could produce to say that this is allowable remote cooperation. Legally, the Greens are the only people who have a right to decide that. 

It should be possible to disagree with them without accusing them of being insincere or hypocritical. 

The fact that the Greens sincerely believe they shouldn't do this doesn't mean that they win the argument. It just gets them in the door for the court to decide if the government's interest in making contraceptives available without cost justifies requiring the Green's to do what they believe they shouldn't do. 

Just as the courts have required Mennonites to pay taxes that help to support wars and Amish employers to pay Social Security taxes for their  employees. Having a sincere religious belief doesn't automatically exempt you from a government program. 

Judge Richard Posner recently gave Notre Dame a hard time because it "advertised" the employee health plan--including contraception coverage available through a third party--on its website while seeking relief from self-ceritfying for the accommodation. Posner wondered whether that might undermine the university's claims about its religious beliefs. Inconsistency is one of the factors that could undermine a claim to sincerely held religious belief. Of course courts are loath to pass judgment on the sincerity of stated religious beliefs. But merely claiming sincerely held religious beliefs in court doesn't mean judges won't ask you about them.