Where does the right of one person to practice a religion end and the right of another person to not practice that same religion begin?
According to the recent U.S. Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, it's not in an employee break room.
The court ruled 5-4 that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties do not have to offer their female employees health insurance that covers certain types of contraceptives because they violate the owners' "sincerely held religious beliefs."
The court's decision opens the floodgates for family-owned businesses to claim exemptions from the Affordable Care Act's mandate that companies offer contraception coverage as part of their preventative care provisions.
It's important to note this terrifying precedent was set by five male justices. All three women on the court dissented, as did Justice Stephen Breyer.
Religious freedom means no government can force a religion upon its citizens or tell a religious organization how to practice its religion. This is why churches can opt out of the ACA, as is their right. The federal government cannot tell a preacher what to preach, nor can it force a church to violate its own teachings.
But a private, for-profit business is not a church, nor is it a person, no matter how much the court may want it to be.
For Hobby Lobby, a corporation which has never given birth and which few have ever seen at a Sunday service, clearly the end game is in the profit line, because in true hypocritical fashion this company invests 75 percent of its 401K in companies that make medications that cause abortions and the very contraceptives the company no longer has to provide medical coverage for.
It should also be noted that while Hobby Lobby does provide medical coverage for the 16 other types of contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, two of the four it does not cover are the most effective - and most expensive - forms of birth control on the market today: intrauterine devices.
Now, an employer's religion gets to tell a doctor what to prescribe her patient. Weren't we all just wringing our hands about how Obamacare was going to do just that, except trade religion for government? How is this any different?
The court also ignored the scientific fact that neither IUDs nor the "morning after pill" cause abortions, but bowed down to the faith of Hobby Lobby's owners by saying, as Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion, that "according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients."
In effect, the U.S. Supreme Court is now saying that religion trumps science.
Alito took it one step further, however, by making it abundantly clear that these beliefs also trump women's freedom to make reproductive choices. Because as he described in his majority opinion, the decision only applies to contraceptive care. So, a Jewish business owner cannot say paying for coverage of a heart valve made from a pig is religiously offensive, nor could a Christian Scientist say offering any medical insurance at all is a violation of religious freedom. At least in this case. Don't be surprised to see lawsuits pop up across the country making those or similar arguments.
In some of the most sweeping rulings the Supreme Court has ever made I can't help but think this court's top priority is to curtail personal freedom and expand corporate opportunities. It's another step in the court's head-scratching history, which started with the Citizens United decision, of turning corporations into people.
That ruling allowed corporations to pump as much money into elections as they want because - as we all know - money does not corrupt. With this recent ruling, corporations can now force their owners' religious beliefs concerning women's health care options onto their employees. This codifies an employer's ability to discriminate against female corporate employees while hiding behind their personal religious beliefs.
But a corporation is not a person. It does not bleed or feel. It does not pray or attend church on Sunday. It does not give birth. And its owner's religion should have no impact on employees' health insurance options.
June 30 was a sad day in this country. I fear what will come next.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.