By Tim Peacock
It seems that those with so-called “religious objections” to the contraceptives mandate contained in Obamacare just can’t keep their stories straight. One such example is Eden Foods and c, its CEO. According to an interview with Salon that went live on Monday, Potter’s religious objections to the law had little (if anything) to do with his lawsuit to refuse to cover contraceptives through insurance.
In the original complaint
, his attorneys argue that “Michael Potter holds religious beliefs that prevent him from participating in, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting contraception, abortion, and abortifacients.” Potters legal team appears to be utilizing the same legal theory that failed other corporations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood
. You’ll recall that in those cases, the courts ruled that “[g]eneral business corporations … do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiously motivated actions separate and apart from the intention and direction of their individual actors.” In that particular case, the judge went on to say, “[i]ncorporation’s basic purpose is to create a distinct legal entity, with legal rights, obligations, powers, and privileges different from those of the natural individuals who created it, who own it, or whom it employs.” That is to say, most federal level courts aren’t yet prepared to extend Citizen United’s “personhood” corporate status to include religious worship as defined under the First Amendment.
Of course, after Monday, Potter may not have an opportunity to argue that point. In his interview with Salon
, he failed to argue that his case was due to religion – at all:
“I’ve got more interest in good quality long underwear than I have in birth control pills,” the unfamiliar voice on the phone said to me. It was Michael Potter, the Eden Foods founder and CEO. [snip]
[I] asked why he said he didn’t care about birth control, since he filed a suit about it and all. “Because I’m a man, number one and it’s really none of my business what women do,” Potter said. So, then, why bother suing? “Because I don’t care if the federal government is telling me to buy my employees Jack Daniel’s or birth control. What gives them the right to tell me that I have to do that? That’s my issue, that’s what I object to, and that’s the beginning and end of the story.” He added, “I’m not trying to get birth control out of Rite Aid or Wal-Mart, but don’t tell me I gotta pay for it.”
The reason why these quotes matter is because there is nothing in federal law allowing someone to sue because they generally object to having the government tell them what to do — if that were the case, speed limits, workplace safety laws and the minimum wage would all be illegal. Instead, a federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permits people to challenge federal laws only when those laws “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” Potter can’t get into federal court because he does not like the birth control law, he can only get into court if he has a religious objection to birth control. And yet, here he is telling a reporter that “the beginning and end” of his objection to the Obama Administration’s rules is that he does not think the federal government should have the power to tell him to provide certain benefits to his employees — not that he believes that such laws burden his faith. [emphasis mine]
|Eden CEO Michael Potter
Furthermore, were this to actually go to trial by some miracle (after this interview), another point of interest from the Salon interview will become relevant: Potter has no clue what contraceptives actually do.
Potter told Salon writer Irin Carmon that he opposes “using abortion as birth control, definitely.” When reminded that abortion and contraceptive use are different things, Potter responded “It’s a morass. I’m not an expert in anything. I’m not the pope. I’m in the food business. I’m qualified to have opinions about that and not issues that are purely women’s issues. I am qualified to have an opinion about what health insurance I pay for.”
Except, he’s doing more than “having an opinion;” in reality, he’s using faulty science to attempt to deny women legal access to contraceptives through their insurance. While the argument can certainly be made that they can buy them outside their insurance, I have to wonder: should we be doing this for every single “non-medically-necessary” issue people utilize medical insurance for? What about erectile dysfunction? Should women be forced to pay for pills that will help men have sex? The argument here revolves around money, not religion. Mainly, placing an additional financial burden on women because you don’t like what they are using insurance for should not trump a woman’s right to access affordable health care.
When we begin allowing for any and all “religious exemptions” in employment, I think Potter may have a case. This includes everything from blood transfusions to refusing to cover those people who don’t share the same religion. After all, aren’t those “sincerely held” religious beliefs as well? Should we only be catering to one religion under the law? Perhaps we should just admit that businesses and corporations aren’t people. They shouldn’t have the right to vote, they shouldn’t have unlimited free speech through political contributions, and they shouldn’t have religious privilege (since those that own or run those businesses have legally separate worship channels).