The Supreme Court on Religion and Shopping

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Emily Bazelon, Slate senior editor, the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School, Political Gabfest panelist, and the author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy (Random House, 2013), discusses the religious rights of corporations as well as the ruling on web sales and local taxes.


Emily Bazelon

Comments [61]

@Bill from Madison, New Jersey

"All this is determined from the moment of conception as nothing else occurs in the womb and after except nutrition."

Well, at least you are stridently wrong! Withhold proper nutrition and your age at death is affected severely. Go and read an article about epigenetics and bring your thinking on this forward to the 21st century.

Dec. 07 2013 09:37 PM
Bill from Madison, New Jersey

Brian: A quick comment on a human zygote - the gender, the color of the eyes, if male, when he will begin to bald (if ever). the probable life expectancy, barring accident, etc. All this is determined from the moment of conception as nothing else occurs in the womb and after except nutrition.

Dec. 03 2013 01:30 PM

The problem is we have incorporated so many right wing memes in our devolving discussion of this issue. Birth Control is not a license to have sex -- it is not Viagra as Rush L seems to think or at least imply. Birth control allows women some control over their bodies and assists in family planning with affects both men and women, married and single. In other instances it is used for medical purposes unrelated to pregnancy. If corporations are allowed these health care exemptions on the basis of religious freedom, women will be reduced to 2nd class status. We will have become a theocracy.

Dec. 03 2013 12:23 PM

@Mr Bad

"How do they get there? I don't know, the precedent is a mess..."

Agreed. This decision - when it comes down ought to make for interesting reading!

I've yet to hear a good argument against forcing employers to pay for things they themselves do not use. Will the Hyde Amendment be the next to go?

Dec. 03 2013 12:16 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ RUCB_Alum

I mean that this will not be a decision that radically changes the notion of corporate personhood. They may create a "test" as "Patrick Loman from Central Islip" pointed out our own Supreme Court has done or they may decide on another basis. It's a grab bag. Some decisions are more political than legal. In this case they will seek to do the minimum amount of damage to both sides which in my view means upholding the rights of explicitly religious organizations to limit abortion coverage while also upholding the Obamacare mandate that employers provide reproductive health coverage. How do they get there? I don't know, the precedent is a mess, inconsistent and deliberately opaque. I'd love to ask their clerks, it's their job.

Dec. 03 2013 11:22 AM

There are religions that condone polygamy, slavery and human sacrifice, etc.

If one religion is above the law, how does society defend against any abuse in the name of "faith"?

Dec. 03 2013 11:11 AM

I know my own policy would be less expensive if it didn't cover injuries due to rock climbing, snowboarding, and excessive TV-watching. How about we exclude these activites as well?

Dec. 03 2013 11:01 AM


Why don't men just keep it in their pants until they want to make a baby with a willing partner?
Now THAT would be noble behavior!

Dec. 03 2013 10:48 AM

@Soldier's Father from Westchester, NY

"I haven't seen any corporations volunteering to serve for military pay.."

Well, SF, your example is ludicrous but I agree with your point. Very few corporations pay even a third of their marginal tax rate of 36%.

@Mr Bad - What's the balance that SCOTUS will seek to compromise around? The line between 'mine and thine' seems pretty clear to me.

Dec. 03 2013 10:47 AM
Giselle from Manhattan

Feminist advocacy of finding oneself via multitudes of super easy men and euphemistically couch it all as 'sex positive' has driven abortion numbers. So there is a good place to start...

Dec. 03 2013 10:45 AM

Three points:

1. Why so much talk about corporations. The law also applies to sole proprietorships and partnership (so long as the business has 50 employees).

2. The Catholic Church teaches the use of contraceptives and aborticides(sp?) is wrong. The law does not require the USE of those items. It opposes the law on the grounds that providing the items facilitates the use -- a controversial issue, in Catholic teaching, since many Catholic institutions, eg many Catholic colleges and the NY Archdiocese, provided insurance coverage for those items prior to the passage of the law.

3. What about treatment of ectopic pregnancies? The Catholic Church doesn't oppose insurance coverage for that treatment even though it views such treatment as a form of abortion.

Dec. 03 2013 10:40 AM
Patrick Loman from Central Islip

This is NOT a NOVEL issue. New York and twenty-seven other states have already solved this issue. In Catholic Charities v Serio (2006) our Court of Appeals opined that when the religious groups entered the stream of commerce as market participants they must comply with society's rules. The court set up a four part disjunctive test meant to distinguish their legitimate religious rights from efforts to impose their religious beliefs on society.Their already exists jurisprudence to address. The Supreme Court refused to grant vert in 2007.

Dec. 03 2013 10:38 AM
wendy W from Central NJ

The sales tax law in NJ says that anything used to create a finished product is not subject to sales taxes, only finished products are. If you have a seller's ID, then anything you buy that will end up in the finished product is not taxable. The fabric for a garment is not taxable, but the pattern is. When you sell the finished product, the tax is collected from the retailer.

Dec. 03 2013 10:38 AM
Robert from NYC

Also has anyone speaking of a corporation called it a person? I in referring to Verizon for example, not only not using the pronoun it but also the work person; e.g. "Verizon is my phone person." Is it my phone person or phone company? And if it, as a corporation, is a person, then why can't I or don't I call it my phone person. Well why? Because it ain't a person. No one would accept that except maybe Verizon itself to get itself loved and appreciated by us.

Dec. 03 2013 10:33 AM
Soldier's Father from Westchester, NY

I haven't seen any corporations volunteering to serve for military pay, either in combat zones or here in the states. If corporations are people, make them subject to conscription, for either military or other national service,

Dec. 03 2013 10:32 AM

Mr Lehrer and Ms Bazelon got the metals dealer's point on sales tax entirely backwards, which is surprising given that he was sounding established law.

Startling also that both Mr Lehrer and Ms Bazelon, or anyone brought up in Western Civilization, could be ignorant of difference between purgatory and limbo.

Dec. 03 2013 10:31 AM
Bruce F from Queens

Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in blood transfusions so if you work for them expect to bleed out ...

Dec. 03 2013 10:30 AM
John A

To Brian's point on contraception celebrating primarily an anti family lifestyle. Thank you. Sorry it didn't land.

Dec. 03 2013 10:30 AM

I recall at least one instance where an employer REQUIRED all of his employees to quit smoking. He argued that it kept his insurance premiums lower. Would a decision against Hobby Lobby also put the kibosh on this employers (IMO) intrusion into the rights of his workers?

Dec. 03 2013 10:29 AM

A business buying scrap from the guy who called would not pay sales tax on the raw materials, but would charge it to the eventual buyer of a finished product

Dec. 03 2013 10:29 AM
Teresa from Stony Brook

If people are worried that requiring insurance companies to include contraception coverage would condone sex out of wedlock, why aren't they also talking about coverage for Viagra?

Dec. 03 2013 10:29 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Susan

I would have loved to have a baby by myself, but nature discriminated against me so that I couldn't get pregnant just because I'm a man.

Dec. 03 2013 10:28 AM

A corporation would like to adopt a child in order to make it work on the family farm, CHEAP!!

Dec. 03 2013 10:27 AM
Ana from park slope

NO NO NO! Catholics DO NOT believe that I baptized babies (fetal or otherwise) go to limbo or purgatory!!! This haas not been part of catholic doctrine for a LONG time!

Dec. 03 2013 10:27 AM

You would avoid sexual 'experimentation' and refrain from euphemistically 'expressing your sexuality' (aka slut phase) choose men more wisely and not go all feral solely because men are always willing and sexually easy

Dec. 03 2013 10:27 AM
John from Bklyn

The term used in this discussion, “public square,” is intended to disguise what is really “government prayer.”

Let’s mischievously invent a new descriptor, “socialist prayer.”

Dec. 03 2013 10:26 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Katie

More men will "go gay" and have it with each other, just like many women suddenly become lesbians and have it with each other.

Dec. 03 2013 10:26 AM
John A

I have worked for corporations of various sizes and its obvious that corporations are not democracies for sure. We're protecting autocracies - kingdoms - in 21st century america. A giant step backwards. Somebody make the connection fir Emily that politics is bullying in this era.

Dec. 03 2013 10:26 AM
Robert from NYC

Business can always be better!

Dec. 03 2013 10:25 AM
Nick from UWS

"Citizens United" is one of the clearest examples of Orwellian Newspeak in our government that we have. It's pure fascism. It's a hugely dangerous precedent and we had better get rid of it fast if we want to survive.

Dec. 03 2013 10:25 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

It should also be noted that a religious exemption would violate the right to privacy and HIPAA. Certainly no corporation would bar an abortion based on rape or incest? In those cases a Dr. would be forced to inquire, possibly require evidence, that a woman was raped before he would perform an abortion on behalf of the company where she works? That's not going to happen.

Dec. 03 2013 10:25 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Love all the moral pronouncements on abortion from men, who have the genetic privilege of never being in the position to need one. Sooooooo easy to weigh in when you never have to worry about it.

Dec. 03 2013 10:24 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Eventually corporations will make babies and sell them like automobiles, the fancier ones with many options going to the wealthiest buyers.

Dec. 03 2013 10:24 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Eventually corporations will make babies and sell them like automobiles, the fancier ones with many options going to the wealthiest buyers.

Dec. 03 2013 10:23 AM
Katie from Huntington

Jamal, if we ladies "think," who will you guys have sex with?

Dec. 03 2013 10:22 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Jamal. Rape. Think. Please.

Dec. 03 2013 10:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To cooldog from Atlantic Highlands

Most corporations eventually do die. How many do you know that have been around for over 120 years?

Dec. 03 2013 10:21 AM

Non-profit and religious exemptions again highlight the need to eliminate any special treatment for these organizations. The ethical imperative for equal treatment for all individuals trumps these distinctions, which in any case are impossible define cleanly and are an open door to abuse. Non-profit hospitals look and act like for-profits, but enjoy special treatment. Church schools are schools. Do-not-call lists are universal, but do not cover politicians, religion or non-profits.. these exceptions undermine fairness an democracy

Dec. 03 2013 10:20 AM
Katie from Huntington

I don't want my tax dollars going to wars but I have no control over how my taxes are distributed--one can't pick and choose; I can't tell the cable company, "I want this program, but I don't want that program." It's a package deal. Insurance comes as a package deal as well--I don't need maternity care anymore, or coverage for prostate cancer but those things may be included in my policy, so therefore, contraception and other health care for women should not be exempted just because the owner of the company doesn't believe in it. No woman should be denied coverage for something to which all women are entitled. That's discrimination.

Dec. 03 2013 10:20 AM
Jamal from Brooklyn

Abortion is 100% preventable because the behavior that leads to it is 100% avoidable. Think ladies. Think.

Dec. 03 2013 10:19 AM
Nick from UWS

As usual, religion is mucking up clarity, logic and common sense in human activity. It poisons everything it touches.

Dec. 03 2013 10:19 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This is not a religious issue. Priests, ministers, Rabbi's etc. do not provide abortions or medical service ... Are businesses claiming they may present religious objections to ANY medical procedure? Obviously not. Legal personhood is different than being a natural person even under the law created by Citizen's United. Ultimately this will be a balancing act by the court not a straight up decision based on precedent.

Dec. 03 2013 10:17 AM

Why is getting an abortion the most noble thing a woman can do? Why not just not get pregnant in the 1st THAT would be a woman deciding what to do with her body...he mused on a Tuesday morning.

Dec. 03 2013 10:16 AM
cooldog from Atlantic Highlands

If corporations are persons, doesn't that mean that they should die at some point?

Dec. 03 2013 10:15 AM
John from Washington, D.C.

Free speech applies to corporations because of the right of *the broader citizenry* to receive a full variety of facts, ideas, and expression. (I wish Brian Lehrer would acknowledge this!) Free exercise of religion is a different, individual matter.

Dec. 03 2013 10:14 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

If there is time in the segment...How are age restrictions to otherwise legal products - cigarettes in NYC, alcohol everywhere - constitutionally permissible?

It would seem that any good lawyer could get this restrictions found to be unconstitutional. It's just that 18-21 year olds are powerless.

Dec. 03 2013 10:12 AM
Nick from UWS


Dec. 03 2013 10:12 AM
MC from Manhattan

Well Well Well if the SC decides in favor of these right wing "christians" you just wait till sharia law and Talmudic law gets applied ... what idiots these are that try to bring this up.. and if I am paying for part of my health insurance it is not the corp's money to decide MY healthcare is figured into my salary so its MY MONEY it is NOT A GIFT , IT IS NOT THE corporations money PERIOD! .. Next thing they will be telling me I cant have a cheese burger because its not Kosher

Dec. 03 2013 10:12 AM
Bernie from NYC

It seem to me that businesses in the south used a similar argument to keep from serving blacks

Dec. 03 2013 10:12 AM
Nick from Brooklyn

If this goes through, I can imagine niche religions cropping up that specifically forbid adherents from paying taxes or following environmental regulations.

Dec. 03 2013 10:11 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Can we do a study that looks at these businesses that want to deny contraception, and then looks at their maternity care coverage? I'm willing to bet they cover the bare minimum with no job guarantee.

Dec. 03 2013 10:11 AM
Girish from Queens

If a woman got an abortion without a medical reason, its not healthcare that warrants someone else to pay for it.

Dec. 03 2013 10:10 AM
g from staten island

What happens when a business wants to eliminate other items in health insurance due to religious beliefs: blood transfusions, organ transplants, use of medicines?

Dec. 03 2013 10:10 AM
Farnsworth from Manhattan

Abortion for any reason not related to health: Not Healthcare

Why does that simple statement raise such hackles and fear?

Dec. 03 2013 10:08 AM

Religious kooks!

Dec. 03 2013 10:07 AM
Nick from UWS

"It's not obvious why the court would give a corporation personhood in the matter of campaign contributions but not in the matter of religion." If it's not obvious to you why that it, then you shouldn't be a reporter.

Dec. 03 2013 10:07 AM

This topic is solely about who pays. Name at least one good reason why other people should pay for a purely convenience-based abortion?

Dec. 03 2013 10:06 AM

American women need abortion insurance? This is surprising?

Dec. 03 2013 10:05 AM
Demetri from Putnam

How does a corporation believe in a religion? Is this not an exclusively human activity?

Dec. 03 2013 10:04 AM
Brood from Manhattan

American women need abortion insurance? This is surprising?

Dec. 03 2013 10:03 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

I am not a lawyer but it would seem to be the height of illogic and stand against precedent to create a religious exclusion for otherwise legal behavior. How does deciding this case in favor of a business owner's rights not to support behavior that is against their religious beliefs trump the employee's right to the freedom to conduct their lives?

Clearly, it doesn't. What could reasonably be expected to happen next? Christian Scientists opting out of insurance plans altogether? Seventh Day Adventists not paying for meals on an expense account that included lobster or pork? Buddhists withholding that portion of their taxes that are used to buy guns and weapons?

An employer's rights just cannot extend that far. Many of us support things we do not believe in or are against. I can see no way for an exclusion to be granted. I would go so far as to say this is a 9-0 decision.

Dec. 03 2013 09:43 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.