To the editor of THE EAGLE:
In its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court continued its recent and bizarre trend of corporate personhood. This is troubling to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that when an individual can use the business they control as an instrument to project their religious beliefs onto their employees, those employees have effectively lost their free exercise of religion.
Some take solace in the fact that the judgment is limited to "closely held" companies. This tends to indicate small businesses with few shareholders, but in fact this definition (according to the IRS less than five shareholders must control 50 percent of the company) would include companies like Wal-Mart. The fact is that if an employer chooses to provide health insurance benefits, these benefits are part of the employee’s compensation for their labor. Once these benefits are earned, the employer has no interest in how they are used, and regardless of how the employee decides to use them it has no impact upon the free exercise of religion of the employer.
This would be essentially the same as saying that an employer should have authority over what goods and services the employee should be able
to purchase with their wages to ensure that the funds of the employer are spent in accordance with their religious beliefs, which is an utterly absurd notion. Such legal sophistry is dangerous not only for the rights of the individual employees, but also to corporate law. Corporations exist
as a legal instrument to isolate individuals from the companies they operate as a means
to limit legal liability. Allowing employers to blur the line between their personal beliefs as individuals and corporate beliefs is a very dangerous concept.
We should be wary of actions like this that continue to favor business owners and the rich granting them greater rights and influence while marginalizing everyone else.
BRIAN W BARNETT