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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

June 30, 2014 at 2:40 PM

The Hobby Lobby can of worms

Today’s Supreme Court ruling  said that a “closely held” company such as Hobby Lobby can opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide contraception coverage on religious grounds. Although the majority decision by the court’s conservatives (elections have consequences) is said to be “very specific” to this case, one wonders where it will lead.

For example, could a closely held company use religious grounds to attempt to opt out of income taxes used to support military adventures? Could religious grounds be used to challenge compliance with the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act? How about taxes?

One can bet that more consequential challenges to the ACA will be coming, emboldened by this decision. One is Halbig v. Sebelius.

It also is a sibling of Citizens United. That landmark case gave corporations the same free-speech rights as real human beings. This confers religious protections. Alas, corporations don’t face the same jeopardy as, say, a poor person who is arrested for a non-violent drug conviction. The aftermath of the Great Recession caused by these corporate persons resulted in no major criminal trials.

One can say that customers and potential employees can vote with their feet and not be involved with a company that refuses to provide women’s health coverage. However, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.” She adds, the majority’s decision could allow any corporation to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Monday Reading: France passes anti-Amazon bill aimed at helping small bookstores | Salon

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Washington’s growth grows

Not bad for a left-wing hell

Full of socialists

Comments | More in Business legal issues | Topics: Hobby Lobby

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