To be more exact, it assumes company owner David Green's personal version of Christianity to be the one true religion. And I suppose I shouldn't say it assumes that, exactly. In truth, Hobby Lobby's legal challenge assumes one of two things: either David Green's personal interpretation of Christianity is the only recognized religion in the United States or the government of the United States has no authority to regulate businesses.
What am I talking about here? And why is it important? It's important because, if we are to allow Hobby Lobby's conclusions, we would open ourselves up to one of the conclusions listed above.
In its lawsuit, Hobby Lobby argues that the federal government's healthcare mandate requires David Green and his family to choose between following federal law or following religious conviction. Putting aside all of the other relevant arguments against Green - including the absurdity of his claim that his incorporated business has a set of religious doctrines that it must follow - one can draw a clear logical progression.
If we accept Hobby Lobby's argument - that the government has no right to make businesses do things that are against the owners' religious convictions - then we must accept that the government has no ability to regulate in practice. To get there, we must dive into the various religions, and note how certain allowances would undermine parts of federal law.
I'd like to start with Christianity, because David Green's version of Christianity differs from my interpretation and, I'm sure, the interpretation of many others. What if I am a Christian who would rather adhere to the things the Bible actually said over the things I perceive it to have said?
Now, imagine that I run a large business, and I want to hire a new manager for one of my corporate offices. I have a choice between a highly qualified man and a slightly more qualified woman. Last night, though, I stumbled upon 1 Timothy 2:12, the New Testament doctrine that says:
12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[a] she must be quiet.You may not agree with my interpretation of that particular passage, and you might believe that it had some other meaning in context. But I am my own man, and I have my own interpretations that power my personal religious beliefs. So I don't want to hire that woman, because her job would involve talking and assuming authority over a host of men who work in my stores. With that in mind, I hire the man.
I should be allowed to do this, but federal law is bothersome. I would be violating:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;I also have a particular fondness for Titus 2:5, which holds:
To be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.The job that I'm hiring for requires the person to work at my office and this would violate the directives for women as directed in Titus. Here, I am forced to decide between following federal law or following my religious convictions, as outlined right in my Bible.
Now, let's imagine I am a Muslim business owner with a similarly sized company. My interpretation of the Quran allows me to hire women though I don't feel that they should be paid like the men in my company. Last night, I was doing my nightly reading when I stumbled upon:
Sura 4:11Apparently federal law stands in my way in running my business according to my interpretation of this rule. The Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for me to pay men and women different wages for the same work. I want to pay my men $80,000 per year in accordance with the Quran, while paying my women $40,000. But federal law, in all of its oppressive glory, makes this illegal.
A male gets a double share of the inheritance over that of a female.
What do we make of my friend who is a devout Mormon? He owns a large business where he employs a number of women in lower-level roles. What happens when one day a female worker approaches him about a promotion that she has clearly earned? He bypasses her, citing:
2 Nephi 13:12Shouldn't my friend have the ability to discriminate against women in this way? After all, the Book of Mormon provides very clear guidance on what happens when women are in charge. Wouldn't requiring him not to discriminate against women violate his personal religious freedom?
When women are allowed to rule, everything goes to hell in a hand basket.
It's not difficult to come up with other possible scenarios where a religious business owner might try to have his business avoid a law on the basis of his own personal religious inclinations. What should we do when a soon-to-be-identified business owner claims that his particular monotheism says that his business does not have to pay taxes?
If we are to accept David Green's argument, and we apply the American truism that the government cannot dictate laws respecting the establishment of religion, then what follows is a system where the federal government has no ability whatsoever to regulate the business market. Any business owner with a religious feeling could declare his business exempt from the law. Major civil rights reforms would be rolled back. Instability would follow. You can bet that business owners who had never previously thought about religion would find their faith in a hurry, choosing whichever version provided the most law-avoidance benefits. What is the government to do then? Should it start parsing religions to determine which Stone Age story is better than another? Or should it require business people to take some religious polygraph to determine the legitimacy of their religious claims? These questions don't need answers because they're designed to highlight the sheer lunacy of David Green's proposition.
The real answer is that David Green thinks his personal version of Christianity is the one true religion, and he sees no problem asking the American government to endorse his view. If you told him that granting his request would open the door to another religious business person refusing to hire women or refusing to pay taxes, Green would probably tell you that you're crazy. After all, the freedom to practice religion doesn't apply to those crazy ideas. That freedom only applies to his ideas, and the court is sure to see right through this absurd line of argumentation.