Letter: Hobby Lobby Is Imposing Its Religion

To the Editor:

Michael Helfand’s commentary March 20, “Religion Doesn’t Stop at the Door of Commerce,” draws a parallel between making businesses’ health insurance plans cover contraception despite the owners’ religious beliefs and forcing a kosher deli to sell non-kosher meat. This is a false comparison. What a business sells is a transaction with its customers. What it offers for pay and benefits is a transaction with its employees.

A better comparison would be this: Suppose a kosher deli owner deducted the cost of a pound of bacon from the paychecks of any employees who do not keep kosher. After all, this reasoning goes, if they really want bacon, they can pay for it themselves. When you look at it that way, the plaintiffs in the Hobby Lobby case are not just imposing their religion on employees’ private lives — they’re being petty and cheap. Hardly “Christian” virtues.

When people shop at kosher delis — or organic food stores, for that matter — they have a legitimate expectation that all the products there will be of a certain type. Do people go into Hobby Lobby looking for Christian crafts? Perhaps there’s the occasional ceramic angel or “Last Supper” paint-by-numbers kit, but this is a small subset of craft supplies available in stores such as Hobby Lobby. Thus, the owners of the company are not letting any of their customers down or violating the expectations that the merchandise there will be of any particular type. The owners’ religious fastidiousness applies only to what they do or do not approve of in their employees’ personal choices.

I hope the Supreme Court sees this case for what it really is: Citizens United run amok. Of course, in the unlikely event that a Hobby Lobby shop shows up in the front pew of my church someday, I may be persuaded otherwise. Until then, I for one will never shop at Hobby Lobby.

Rebecca Kvam Paquette