The recent "Hobby Lobby" case being put before the U.S. Supreme Court (in which the plaintiffs are petitioning the court for exemption from the ACA requirement for businesses to pay for contraception coverage on religious grounds) has the potential for outcomes reaching far beyond the realm of health care. The ramifications of this case for health care are significant - if a Catholic employer can be allowed to refuse to pay for the portion of federally-mandated employee coverage that buys contraceptives, why can't a Jehovah's Witness employer refuse to pay for coverage for blood transfusions, or why can't the (perhaps ironically-named) Christian Scientist business owners refuse to pay for any insurance coverage at all, since their religion teaches them that prayer is the preferred method of treating illness or injury? But this goes way beyond health care. The question really being asked here is can government make someone pay for anything that goes against their religious or spiritual beliefs? If the answer is determined to be "no", then the tax code is going to get a lot more complicated.
Many religious or spiritual beliefs teach that killing humans is wrong. If I'm among those, should I be exempt from paying the percentage of my taxes that buys drones, bombs and bullets? That could save me a lot, given that in 2012 the U.S. spent nearly $700 Billion on the military. Talk about a tax deduction! This could be fun. Let's find some more!
My religious beliefs also teach that killing animals is wrong, (as of about 20 minutes ago I'm a strict vegan) so I'm not going to pay for USDA meat inspections. If your kid gets sick from eating bad chicken, too bad - that's what you get for letting them eat animals. No money to agricultural subsidies either.
And I don't want my kids to be taught about evolution at school because my religion says that evolution is against God, (not exactly a stretch if you've been paying attention in recent years…) so I'm not paying for public school science teachers, books or programs. I guess I'll still have to fork over for math and English, unless - Hey! Isn't Hebrew the true language of God or something? Cha-Ching!
My religious beliefs also say that it's wrong to unnaturally extend life. When it's your turn at the pearly gates, time's up. There's got to be a whole lot of geezers on Medicare and Medicaid who should have kicked the bucket a long time ago if it weren't for those pricey prescriptions and costly nursing homes. I'm done paying for them, I've been sinning long enough.
In fact, now that I think about it, my religious beliefs tell me that it's both wrong and futile to try to alter the course that God has laid out for us earthlings. If He wants to flood our coastal cities or burn our forests and grasslands to ashes, who are we to intervene? FEMA exemption, baby! Oh- and the Forest Service too. Man, I've got so much faith, by the time I'm done finding all of these tax exemptions, the government is going to owe me money!
As the Supreme Court considers the Hobby Lobby case, it might be worth considering very carefully the possible consequences of ruling in favor of the plaintiff. If we're going to write a pass for one religion, won't we have to treat them all equally under the law? Or do we only allow preferential treatment for "legitimate" religions? (Surely all people of faith can agree completely on which ones those are…) To be considered a religious or spiritual belief, must it be shared by others, or can someone have their own spiritual beliefs that may be unique to themselves and still receive an exemption? If Hobby Lobby should prevail, we might experience a surprising surge in religious affiliation when there is suddenly strong financial incentive to find the Lord.