Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hobby Hypocrisy

If you're already tired of hearing about the latest controversy surrounding the Hobby Lobby Corporation and it's billionaire fundamental Christian owners, David and Barbara Green, forgive me and please bear with me. If you've been living in a hole:  The Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby in perhaps the most important case of the current term, as it determined that corporations can’t be required by law to provide coverage for birth control if their religious beliefs equate such medications with abortion.

Since first hearing of this lawsuit in the fall of 2012 (when Hobby Lobby stopped getting my dollars), I'm frankly a little stunned by the court's ruling.  More than stunned...I'm gritting my teeth.  It's not the 'separation of church and state' violation that has me spun out; although it does.  I'm not even talking about the 'religious right's war on women;' although it's legitimate. Instead, it's the layer upon layer of hypocrisy involved in this entire affair that has roused my ire.  As I watch Christians cheer and support another hypocritical billionaire; one who just thumbed his nose at federal law (render unto Ceasar what belongs to..)...well...I may have permanent damage from shaking my head.  Having just finished a post about religious Repeaters and the hazards of bandwagon jumping without first doing your research, I'm now more convinced than ever of two things:  1.  The majority of Christians do not read their own Bible.  2.  The majority of Christians do not really know what Jesus would do.  Instead they just repeat what they've heard, without doing any research apparently.  I just can't stay silent as I watch our society lurch in dangerous directions, while cheered on by the very people who are placed in danger by the precedents, which have been set in this landmark case.  If there was ever a time to give me your full attention and concentration, this is it.

Gather 'round whilst I break it down and make use of that fancy new degree

First, let me justify that 'hypocritical billionaire' remark.  Hypocrisy is the claim or pretense of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not in actual fact hold.  It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another.  In Moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.

Make no mistake folks, as accurately surmised by Jill Filipovic
"Protecting the religious freedom of individuals is crucial. But at issue here isn't the religious freedom of individuals. It's the ability of a corporation to dictate what kind of healthcare its employees have covered, under the guise of the stated religious views of the company owners.  And don't be fooled; this is more about the current political tides than long-held religious values. The constitutional issues at play here aren't all that grey. But the supreme court's calculus is made more complex simply by virtue of the issue being attached to the controversial Affordable Care Act.  Notably, the Hobby Lobby used to have an employee insurance plan that covered the very same birth control methods it now claims violate its religious freedom. It wasn't until the GOP raised a stink about the contraception rules in Obama's healthcare legislation that the Hobby Lobby "re-examined" its insurance policies. Is the religious belief sincerely held? Probably. But it's as much political and cynical as it is faith-based."
And now I'll prove it:  "We're Christians," Hobby Lobby's president Steve Green proclaims, "and we run our business on Christian principles."  So, because they close their stores on Sundays, won't pay for certain birth control for their female employees, and pay a $14/hour minimum wage (still not a living wage) they run their business on Christian principles...  Does anyone out there truly believe that one may become a billionaire in the free-market capitalist system using Christian principles?  Here's a hypocritical clue: Hobby Lobby's founders have made it clear that any abortion and certain contraceptives are unacceptable in their eyes, yet the company's 401(k) plan has millions of dollars invested in funds that own the companies that make birth control methods including Plan B, the so-called "morning after" drug. So, they have no problem making money off the practice, just spending it apparently. 
"At least eight of those funds have been invested in companies that produce contraceptives such as Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA), Bayer (BAYRY), and Pfizer (PFE), according to a CNNMoney analysis. Teva makes Plan B. At least one fund also held Forest Laboratories, which makes a drug that is used to induce abortions."

Now Jesus denied that wealth is a sign of God's favor or that poverty is God's punishment for sin. This is shown most clearly in His Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). At least part of the reason the rich man ended up in hell was because of his hard-heartedness toward the beggar Lazarus. His great wealth was obviously not a sign of God's favor. The beggar Lazarus ended up in heaven although he was about as impoverished as a man could be. His poverty was obviously not a sign of sinfulness or foolishness.

And then there's these (and many more):

Proverbs 15:16-17 New International Version (NIV)

16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord
    than great wealth with turmoil.
17 Better a small serving of vegetables with love
    than a fattened calf with hatred.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 New International Version (NIV)

10 Whoever loves money never has enough;
    whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
    This too is meaningless.
11 As goods increase,
    so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
    except to feast their eyes on them?
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
    whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
    permits them no sleep.

Luke 1:52-53 New International Version (NIV)

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty

Luke 6:20 New International Version (NIV)

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God."

Luke 6:24-25 New International Version (NIV)

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
    for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
    for you will mourn and weep.

Despite the Bible's many warnings against it, the idea that wealth is a sign of God's favor and that the poor have done something to deserve their condition persists as an undercurrent in Christian thought today.

A former small business owner myself, I've personally been involved with the process of incorporation via assisting in the setup of and operating as both an "S" and a "J" corporation, and investigated the benefits of a limited liability corporation.  You may believe me when I tell you that aside from tax reasons, the most common motivation for incurring the cost of setting up a corporation is the recognition that the shareholder is not legally liable for the actions of the corporation. This is because the corporation has its own separate existence wholly apart from those who run it.  Once again, Jill Filipovic sees it clearly:
"The company heads bringing these claims want to have it both ways. By incorporating, owners and shareholders create separate entities and are not personally liable for their employees' salaries or health insurance costs – the entire point of incorporating is to create a legal entity separate from the individuals who created it. Yet these owners and shareholders want the court to consider their personal religious beliefs indistinguishable from those of the corporation, and allow those beliefs to dictate the kind of healthcare coverage their employees receive.  By refusing to cover contraception, the Hobby Lobby owners (and the owners of the other companies claiming the healthcare law infringes upon their religious freedom) are in fact using their own religious beliefs to deny benefits to their employees who may not share those beliefs at all. That's not religious freedom; it's religious tyranny."
She continues...
"On its face, it seems odd to even consider the question seriously. After all, no one is forcing the owners of the company to take contraception or purchase contraception. The belief in question – that certain types of contraception are "abortifacients" – is also far from scientific fact. Also, the company owners issue their employees a pay check and have no say over how the employees spend it; they have no say over the activities their employees participate in on a vacation day.  It's certainly not violating the company's religious freedom for an employee to use the money paid to them by the company for a whole series of things that the company owner may find religiously objectionable, including buying contraception. It's certainly not violating the company's religious freedom for an employee to use a company-issued vacation day to enjoy a whole series of things that the company owner may find religiously objectionable, including, say, a full-day contracepted sex-fest, a trip to Mecca or a pork barbecue.  So why is it a problem for employees to use their health insurance for the care they and their doctors agree upon?"

So, the drugs don't actually have to be abortifacient, they just have to "believe" they are?!...

Let's get back to the alleged 'good Christian Principles of Hobby Lobby.'  Quoting Jonathan Merritt:
"Turn over just about any trinket in a Hobby Lobby store and you'll find a gold oval stamped with "Made in China," a country that is one of the worst offenders of human dignity, unborn infant life, and economic justice anywhere in the world... Can you call yourself a "Christian business" when you leverage your profits to support an economic system that blatantly perpetuates injustice?...Imagine for a moment a nation with nightmarish labor conditions, inadequate workplace regulation, and rampant child labor. You've just imagined 21st century China. Seventy thousand Chinese employees die every year in workplace accidents — that's roughly 200 humans snuffed out of existence every day...China is also the 20th worst in the world for child labor. Can you call yourself a "Christian business" when you support underage labor? Jesus, after all, taught that taking one's own life is preferable to harming a child...Data shows that 13 million abortions are performed in the country each year. About 35,000 infant lives are terminated in China every day, and 336 million abortions have taken place there over the last four decades. According to Steven Mosher of Population Research Institute, "most of those abortions have the character of a rape. That is, they were performed on women who were ordered, or even physically forced, to submit to the knife....Hobby Lobby imports billions of dollars worth of bric-brac from a nation that denies 1.35 Billion citizens freedom of worship."

I this really what Jesus would do?  Well, I guess it's true that "corporations are persons" after all. The supreme court just backed up their right to be religious hypocrites.  Speaking of that, I hope it hasn't escaped your notice ladies:  Hobby Lobby had five male justices from the Supreme Court – note, zero women – make the decision that Hobby Lobby would “win” their case.  I'm certain that the next sound we hear will be single women everywhere sharpening their knives...
"Hobby Lobby reminds us why for-profit businesses should resist calling themselves "Christian." The free market is messy and complicated and riddled with hypocrisy. Conducting business in today's complex global economy almost ensures one will engage in behavior that is at least morally suspect from a Biblical standpoint."
In the end, the religious right and their fundamental supporters (originally 80,000 liberal Christians petitioned against the lawsuit in Oklahoma City) have succeeded in betraying their wives and daughters, and allowing the personal 'stated' religious beliefs of billionaire corporate owners to hold sway over their employees' private lives and decisions.  Billionaire corporate case you need one more reminder, "All I want to say is that they don't really care about us."  The true enemy of the people is not only right in your face, but uses your faith to dishonorably and dishonestly curry your favor, thus allowing them to abuse us one and all, adding more weight to the yoke we already bear. Christians cheer out of misplaced loyalty and ignorance of the facts.  This simply causes more division, earning the enmity of those who know better.  Religious freedom was never meant to be a club.  This isn't the first century in the Middle East and this type of behavior doesn't win converts or friends.  My advice?  Prepare to be hit back.

Dave ~ Thanks for your time, I hope we get to know each other better.