FALSE CONSCIENCE

The noted Jesus enthusiasts who run Hobby Lobby – America's #1 retailer of craft supplies and unbelievably tacky shit – are trying to get out of their legal obligations under the Affordable Care Act. As a large chain, I suspect they would be obligated to provide insurance for a good number of their employees who lack it at present. Predictably, they are claiming to be entitled to some sort of conscience exemption on the grounds that the ownership doesn't want to pay for it their deep Christian beliefs will not allow them to pay for any insurance that covers birth control.

This comes up every couple of years, usually when some pharmacist claims to be morally unable to dispense birth control prescriptions, and it never gets less ridiculous. It betrays a complete lack of understanding of what a conscientious objection is. I came across this excellent explanation from a Quaker – a group that has experience with CO during military drafts – of why this is so misguided:

I believe in Conscience Protection. I believe people should have the right to refuse work that violates their principles. If a draft were called tomorrow, I would wholeheartedly support people's right not to serve.

But if someone serving in the military came to me and said they wanted me to defend their right to refuse military service, but that they also wanted to keep their job and be paid as if they were actually serving in combat, I would laugh in their face.

A pharmacist demanding the right to keep their job even if they refuse to dispense legal medication is like a Marine demanding to keep their job even if they refuse to follow lawful orders. That’s not "conscience protection," that’s a handout to someone who wants to be paid not to work.

Unsurprisingly, Hobby Lobby and their ilk want to have it all ways. They want to do as their supposed morals dictate and flout the law, as though we all have a right to pick and choose what aspects of the law we will follow based on our preferences. I'm legally obligated to pay taxes for two wars I find profoundly immoral. If I chose to, I suppose I could stop paying whatever portion of my taxes goes toward that end. But what right would I have to complain when the IRS put me in jail or seized my assets to cover my tab? None. Absolutely none. Because a genuine act of conscience is not necessarily one for which you are protected from all of the potential consequences.

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37 Responses to “FALSE CONSCIENCE”

  1. wetcasements Says:

    Simpler reasoning — if Hobby Lobby wants to be a church, go for it! But as long as you're a company you don't get to discriminate.

    Companies are not people. And they are definitely not churches.

  2. Nate Says:

    The thing I really hate about the healthcare reform law is that it regularly causes greedy idiots to expound on why they should be given a free pass to allow their greed to hurt others, and then I have to hear about them doing so. And then I want to punch them right in the eyeball, but I cannot.

    Thanks, Obama.

  3. Doomed, we are Says:

    If the difference between salvation and damnation is whether your employees purchase birth control from their wages or access their healthcare coverage, it might be time to find a less petty and pedantic deity.

  4. Tom Says:

    Was there not a pontification to effect the end of Christianity being a two issue denomination?

  5. middle seaman Says:

    Too many problems kick up their rear legs when religious fanatics try to force others to follow the selective parts of their religion dictates.

    Why my prohibition on birth control automatically implies you must abide by it too?

    Why the fanatics support cutting food stamps despite their religious obligations to help the poor, but are holly with birth control?

    We all know too well that these fanatics not only use birth control, but they also use abortion services, rob you blind, start wars and sleep with the neighbors wife, birth control, however, is a red line.

  6. Arslan Says:

    It's particularly funny considering that usually these fundamentalists are the very same people who tend to insist that salvation is by grace alone and not works. Of course sometimes it is about deeds, when they want it to be.

  7. Xynzee Says:

    What wetcasements said.

    I don't get where these Randian, Libertarian, Constitutionalist, Secessionist, Nationalist, etc beliefs come from and how anyone can make them jibe with Christianity. The short answer is they're all idolatry.

    The whole "anti-tax" tax thing is pointedly laid to waste with Matt 17:22-27. When Jesus pays a tax that he doesn't like and thinks is BS.

    Throughout Romans Paul exhorts his readers to obey the laws. The only laws Christians are allowed to transgress are those that require renouncing Christ, abhorrent to God or have a moral implication. **BUT** one does so knowing that there will be consequences, eg. fines, jail time and perhaps even death (martyrdom). So suck it up and get on with it.

  8. E* Says:

    I don't see the problem. Hobby Lobby's employees would never use birth control, so this is a mute point, right?

    In fact, I think Hobby Lobby should fire every employee who has ever used birth control. See how that works out for them in terms of workforce.

  9. E* Says:

    moot point.

    Never leave a comment before 6am.

  10. ec Says:

    I'm sure Hobby Lobby also refuses to buy products from China on the basis of its Christian values.

    Oh. Wait.

  11. c u n d gulag Says:

    1. The hormones that are in birth control are often are prescribed for reasons beyond mere birth control.

    2. If contraception for women isn't covered by health care, then neither should V*agra, or any other 'quicker-pecker-upper.'

    If you believe that when women fuck, and get pregnant, that that is "God's Will," then if you have a limp dick, and can't get it up anymore, isn't THAT also "God's Will"? God is telling you that you're done with fucking, old man – your pecker's kaput! DOA.

    Find a hobby.
    Go to Hobby Lobby, old man.

  12. The important thing is that I'm not bitter Says:

    Even if Hobby Lobby is forced to throw in the towel and cover BC, I doubt they give most of their employees enough hours to obtain benefits. When I worked there part time in my late teens (back when teens had a shot at a part time job) as a cashier/stock person/janitor/dept head for a few years, I only ever got a "raise" when the minimum wage was hiked, and full time employees were often not scheduled to work the rest of the week once they reached forty hours to avoid paying them overtime. There were never enough people to maintain the registers, where everything had to be entered by hand (I forgot the reason for not having 20th century technology like bar code scanners, aside from being it a cost-cutting measure), head the departments, and clean the store at closing. We went through at least three managers, one of whom was fond of gluing together broken merchandise and sticking it on the clearance shelves. In short, this company, like most major retailers, has always treated its employees like crap, and will continue to do so regardless of what payment or healthcare stipulations are mandated by law because the powers that be insist on pandering to corporate assholes.

    You can always not shop there, but your alternative suppliers of cheap crafty shit are likely no better, even if they haven't been publicly shamed yet. If you simply can't abide ordering your scrapbook junk online, note that various categories of merchandise are "on sale" at 50% off every two weeks (e.g., if glassware was advertised at 50% off last Monday, it will magically be on sale again next Monday). And FFS, if you knock accidentally break something, tell an employee. No one is going to make you pay for it, and it saves people from having to sift through random busted items when they rearrange the layout of department in three months.

  13. Sarah Says:

    My favorite part of that article:

    But if they’re not willing to make those sacrifices–if their ‘conscience’ only compels them so far as they can follow it for free–then they are not conscientious objectors.

    And they and their fake conscience objection can get the hell off my lawn.

    We also need to direct some of this at the people who want to be able to provide services like photography and cake baking offered to the public but want to be able to pick and choose their customers, because they want to avoid coming into contact with the icky LGBT folks who are now legally able to get married.

  14. GunstarGreen Says:

    @Xynzee: Interestingly enough, "God's Will" always seems to extend just far enough to cover the desires of the person invoking it.

    I'm with the Quaker on this one. Want to conscientiously object? Fine, hand over your (pharmaceutical/business/etc.) license. You can spend your newfound free time objecting from your living room.

  15. Well mostly Says:

    The basis of this cult is that "a special someone" has a plan to get you off the hook. Not surprising the followers want to get off the hook in other ways: they're use to it. This, of course, is side-by-side with the desire to put others directly on the hook for various transgressions. We can't expect good practice from deficient theory.
    Then again, why tangle with a bear? The progressive community could pool resources and get contraception covered for anyone who wants it free of government policy and insurance contracts. Sounds like PP? Why fight the big policy fight if you don't need to. We have to be careful about wanting something without a price which is the point ed makes so well about these conservative folk.
    "Your pecker's kaput" is the best line I could hope to hear today. I don't need to read anymore.

  16. RosiesDad Says:

    That's an outstanding post on Fake Conscience Objections you linked to, Ed. I have nothing else to add; she knocked it out of the park.

  17. Michael Says:

    In the early days of my career, I worked as a branch manager for a regional bank. I constantly had to deal with employees who would tell me that they were not making their sales goals because they could NOT, in good conscience, allow a customer to take a loan or buy a CD or open an account if they knew another bank/credit union offered a better rate/lower fee/etc. My response: I will be happy to send your application over to Bank X, but as long as you collect a paycheck from us, you need to get on board.

    PS: And we're not talking about predatory lending here. We're talking about buying Tide instead of store-brand; buying coke when pepsi is on sale. This was not as much a "crisis of conscience" as it was "it's easy to make a moral argument than to say I'm unable or unwilling to do the job."

  18. J. Dryden Says:

    Why stop at birth control? Look, if you're really, really Christian, you believe that all people of "alternate faiths" are committing a terrible sin–and by aiding and abetting that sin, you're in danger of going to Hell yourself. So any neo-natal medication needs to come with the question: "You're not going to be raising this child Jewish/Muslim/Hindu, are you? Because if you are, I can't sell this to you."

    OK, here's the thing. I wrote the above and then I thought about it, and I realized something awful: A. there are lots and lots and lots of people in this country would *totally* do that if they could. And B. if they did, there are a shit-ton of gerrymandered legislators who would come to their defense, and get plenty of support on Fox News. I had this whole would-be Swiftian diatribe about hypocritical religious Tartuffery gone amok, and now I'm thinking "Fuck it–it's not funny, because it's not exaggerated. It's real, and nobody cares."

    I'm starting to realize that we may have reached the point at which satirizing American small-minded bigotry may be impossible.

    I don't hate this country, but God do I hate its culture.

  19. Death Panel Truck Says:

    "I constantly had to deal with employees who would tell me that they were not making their sales goals because they could NOT, in good conscience, allow a customer to take a loan or buy a CD or open an account if they knew another bank/credit union offered a better rate/lower fee/etc."

    I live in Pasco, Washington. The manager of the Yakima Federal Savings and Loan that financed our mortgage was quite honest with us when we went there to get a car loan. "You'll get a better deal at HAPO," she said. She had no problem with recommending a competing credit union.

  20. Whatver Says:

    That's it! I'm going to Michaels for all my shit crap purchases from now on! What's that? Michaels' worships Jesus as it's Lord and Savior as well? Well… fuck!

  21. Tim Says:

    I think the quaker's argument gives them too much credit. Why is the business owner's conscience the relevant one in this situation, rather than the person who would actually be using the contraception?

    It seems to me more like a quaker employer saying that their non-quaker employees should not be drafted since the employer doesn't believe in war.

  22. ladiesbane Says:

    Whoops! Sorry, amigo. NO company is required to offer medical insurance to its employees. Not even under the ACA.

    If a company CHOOSES to offer coverage, and the company has the equivalent of 50+ full-timers (that would be 100 half-timers, you get the math involved) then it is subject to certain rules and has certain compensations as well. Before the ACA, similar rules were in place and may still be. One common rule is that if you have more than a handful of employees, employers were required to pay at least 50% of the premium cost for the employee (not spouse or children). Many employers paid more than they had to because it was a benefit they could adjust the actual cost without consulting the workers (unlike vacation benefits or per diem) if they were having a bad year or sometimes even a bad quarter.

    But the important stuff is this pseudo-moral BS. If they get away with this, what prevents them from saying child labor laws and workers compensation claims are against their religion? You get to use your own body in Conscientious Objection, not anyone else's. If they owned shares in Merck, suddenly generic drugs would be against their religion too.

    Not that there is a financial motive here. One maternity / delivery bill costs more than all the birth control (and elective abortions) a store can use in a year.

    But really, there is no solid Biblical foundation for objecting to BC, morning-after pills, or abortion either. Hobby Lobby are straight out of Oklahoma, buckle of the Bible Belt, and like many of their ilk, rely on a couple of vague, misinterpreted phrases to support their anti-choice campaign. They are acting according to personal conviction alone, and their personal convictions should not have any influence over their employees' health benefits or life choices.

  23. Big dog Says:

    Dryden…on not hating. Your remark makes me think that you could say the same thing about a person. I don't hate Scalia, I just hate the way he behaves. Let's face it, this country needs radical transformation to become less hateful. But hate is a very expensive emotion. We need to replace it with something more creative, more positively transformative.

  24. Major Kong Says:

    I don't like to think of it as "hate" just "very intense dislike".

  25. J. Dryden Says:

    Yeah, poor choice of word on my part; it's more along the lines of "very intense dislike" in my case. "Hate" to me is a precursor to violence, and I'm not that guy. Mostly my antipathy towards those whom I wish ill is manifested in the desire that they meet with the kind of comeuppance meted out to bullies in 1980s Teen Comedies: falling into the pool at fancy receptions, being discovered in flagrante by the Crusty Old Dean, showing up to their job interview in a chicken costume–you know, shame, rather than bleeding.

  26. John Doheny Says:

    Interesting. I remember there were people who had "Conscience Objections" to things like their tax money going to kill people halfway around the world during the Vietnam conflict. Some witheld an approximate equivalent from their income taxes, refused to pay them as a matter of conscience. They promptly got their asses thrown in jail.

    Another thing to consider is that health benefits are currently offered as part of employees compensation package. They are an earned benefit. What's next? Telling your employees how they can spend their salary?

  27. Xynzee Says:

    @Dryden: "I'm starting to realize that we may have reached the point at which satirizing American small-minded bigotry may be impossible."

    Only starting to realise? I realised this when Beavis and Butthead hit MTV. When the real life B&Bs were wandering around going, " Heh, heh, heh! Fire! Fire is cool!"
    Completely missing the point that they themselves were the joke.

    Any remaining illusions I had regarding this were completely killed after Team America. It was obvious that the bulk of the audience would not realise they were being satirised.

    Shakes head in dismay.

  28. Tom Says:

    Sarah, have photographers and cake bakers really discriminated pursuant to sexual orientation? Do you have a *New York Times* reference?

  29. Anonymouse Says:

    @Tom; don't make Sarah do your Googling for you. Not only have cake bakers (in Oregon or Washington, I believe) discriminated, but also wedding photographers (in the south) and people who run a sight-seeing carriage tour for weddings (in Annapolis, Maryland).

  30. Sarah Says:

    @Tom; don't make Sarah do your Googling for you. Not only have cake bakers (in Oregon or Washington, I believe) discriminated, but also wedding photographers (in the south) and people who run a sight-seeing carriage tour for weddings (in Annapolis, Maryland).

    Also, I don't know if that's genuine trolling by him or some sort of bizarre irony, but I was under the impression that for right-wingers and their apologists (the ones who say that there isn't really a war on women and racism is over, so the world is all rainbows and baskets of puppies and whatever), that the New York Times is the epitome of the lyin' lee-bruhl mainstream media and therefore not to be trusted.

  31. Anonymouse Says:

    It's a rwnj badge of honor to scream loudly about "deee-scrimination" and whine that they were forced to close down their business entirely because they were not allowed to refuse service on the basis of a customer's sexual orientation.

  32. Tom Says:

    Anonymouse,
    There was a time when people would justify their propositions themselves, rather than assume an internet search engine were available to fill lacunae in for the sufficiently inquisitive reader; should you not be admonishing Sarah for making me shore up *her* (and your (smile)) citations? Then again, perhaps I am just livin' in the past—grading essays too harshly, not embracing the new interactive|*conversational dissertation 2.0*|Google it!|

    Sarah,
    0.001 Accusing people of trolling is as incendiary as trolling. The internet is far more palatable if you just patronize your suspects.
    1. Yes, the NYT remark is a joke among peeps I went to school with (somewhat esoteric, I guess), which predicts flamboyant|ostentatious|lurid coverage of a story like the one you suggested exists; sorry for inadvertently including you.

  33. jon Says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmond_Doss

    Here's how a conscientious objector individual does it: does what is required, still helps out, but still maintains his moral beliefs.

    If Hobby Lobby doesn't like that it has to spend money to cover healthcare for its employees, it can decide to take the tax penalty and allow its workers to seek out care on the markets. That's what Obamacare can offer. But it wants to offer a special and different version of healthcare. Why does it get to do that rather than take the tax penalty? Because it wants to be special and have its own rules. Nothing else. Just petulant toddler bullshit reasons. It doesn't want to provide a plan that the government says it should. They want to do their own thing and not get penalized. This shouldn't happen, even if God Herself appears before the Supreme Court. Fuck Her bullshit.

  34. jon Says:

    http://www.insidecounsel.com/2012/10/30/employers-must-choose-to-pay-or-play-under-the-aff

    Hobby Lobby is completely full of shit. They don't have to provide access to insurance. THEY DON'T HAVE TO PROVIDE INSURANCE. But they want to, just so they can control their employees. And they want the government to say that's okay.

    This is so fucked up.

  35. Tom Says:

    Um, jon, the Christian God quite decidedly possesses an X and a Y.

  36. jon Says:

    Tom, the Christian god is but one of many, even according to the Bible.

  37. gzt Says:

    The funny thing to me is that Hobby Lobby's insurance package offered contraception before the ACA passed, but then they got rid of it and wanted to file this suit.