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Bishop DiMarzio’s Stilted Hobby Lobby Analogy

Originally posted at Talk to Action

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the overseer of the Diocese of Brooklyn-Queens New York, recently weighed in on the recent US Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the case concerning the ability of certain closely held corporations to opt out of one of the preventive health care  provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that required that insurance packages provide free birth control for women. In praising the High Court’s decision he offered an analogy that was fractured and misses the point.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is not well-known beyond the metropolitan New York area.  He is often overshadowed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan the head of the much larger and neighboring Diocese of New York. Installed by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, DiMarzio does nevertheless exercise influence by the fact that he lead a diocese of almost 1 ½ million Catholics. Beyond that, is also a religious cultural warrior being both a member of Opus Dei and a signatory of the Manhattan Declaration; the controversial statement that proclaims that Christians should not only oppose marriage equality and reproductive freedom, but engage in civil disobedience in order to get their way.

Thus it is not surprising that the bishop weighed in on the recent US Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case. He told the local CBS affiliate:

Religious liberty is at stake. Let me give you an example: if we were to tell Muslims and Jews that pork is good to eat, the government could decide you should eat pork because it’s good for your health. Could we force them to do something that is against their religious tenet? I don’t think so,

Forget for now the shoddiness of the decision. Also put aside that by voting with the majority Associate Justice Antonin Scalia contradicted himself from a decision he himself wrote 24 years earlier. What the Bishop does not seem to understand is that health insurance provided by an employer is part and parcel of a compensation package, akin to monetary salary. This is a critical distinction that illuminates why this is a false analogy.

What SCOTUS has essentially said is that an employer has to power to tell an employee what to do with her compensation. Because birth-control could now conceivably not be covered by insurance plans, it drives up the cost to the user. The reason for that is simple: instead of making a simple $20 or $35 co-payment, the employee is now possibly liable for the full payment. Which brings us back to the bishop’s analogy.

Bishop DiMarzio’s syllogism does not work because it makes no distinction between employer and employee.  As the result of the court’s ruling an employer may now dictate to an employee — especially one whose religious beliefs differ from that of an anti-birth-control employer – that she cannot take advantage of the purchasing power of an insurance plan to lower her costs. And beyond that, because before Hobby Lobby was decided, the birth-control coverage was purchased through a compensation plan it was truly the employee, not be employer, who was paying for birth control. While the bishop spins a scenario of the government telling a Muslim or Jewish citizen what type of meat he must eat, the reality was quite different; it would be as if an employee could legally impede that same Muslim or Jew from purchasing what type of meat he can eat. The bishop’s analogy would only make sense if the employee were required to use birth control in violation of her religious convictions

I do agree with Bishop DiMarzio in one respect: religious freedom is the issue. Unfortunately, it is the Supreme Court that is now ensuring that the religious freedom of millions of Americans will be violated in the wake of Hobby Lobby.

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One Response

  1. Very well said. Thank you Frank

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