April 16, 2014
Ithaca, NY 29°F | Rain

Opinion

Commentary: How Hobby Lobby can teach us to avoid following laws

Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts superstore, opened up a new location in Ithaca — which isn’t a huge surprise, because people in Ithaca love arts and crafts. But, on Nov. 11, Ithaca residents and students gathered in front of the Hobby Lobby building on Route 13 to protest the store — which isn’t a huge surprise, because people in Ithaca love protesting.

Protesters want people to shop elsewhere because of the store’s stance on health care. Frankly, I’m not happy with the protesters, and I’m calling for them to reconsider and stand with Hobby Lobby.

The very successful chain and its CEO, David Green, are currently locked in dispute with the federal government over a mandate in Obamacare that says Hobby Lobby must supply a healthcare plan that covers a number of contraceptive medications to employees. Green is boycotting the mandate and refusing to supply contraception.

Green is a Christian man, and he believes that Hobby Lobby shouldn’t have to break its moral and religious convictions by providing contraceptives to its employees, a method or substance used to prevent pregnancy, which is prohibited by their religion because it contradicts the sanctity of life at conception. Green argues that Hobby Lobby’s rights are being infringed upon because it has to legally perform actions contrary to the religious values of its owner.

Corporate personhood laws in the U.S. have given companies First Amendment rights, and Green believes that his corporation should be afforded freedom to practice his religion and withhold contraception from its employees.

In essence, Green is arguing that he doesn’t need to follow the law because of his religion and, because he owns a business, he can impose that religion on his employees. At first, this irked me. Green should definitely be able to practice his religion, but he shouldn’t get special treatment because of it, I initially thought. But then, I began to think this Green guy is kind of a genius. If you don’t want to follow a law, just say it’s against your religion — even if everyone else has to follow it.

As a partially Christian person, I’m taking a stance against federal student loans; I don’t feel the need to pay back the interest on them. Deuteronomy 23:19 says, “Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest.” Have you seen the interest rates on your student loans? Sorry government, but my religion says your interest rate collection isn’t kosher.

I’m also really in tune with the Buddhist beliefs that are essential to my identity. Part of a Buddhist lifestyle means mitigating harm that is done to the environment and working hard to keep the earth healthy. My Buddhist values just can’t jibe with the idea that my taxes are being used to support fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are detrimental to the Earth, so I cannot support that idea that my tax dollars stock subsidies that support fossil fuels.

Now that I think about it, I really don’t believe in money at all. Part of my radically Jainism-related lifestyle actually promotes non-possessiveness. If I give any tax money to the government, it is promoting a system of possession. Sorry Uncle Sam, I’m not going to give you money to give to people so they can go and buy things.

Now that I’m on Team Green, and I have the choice of which laws I want to follow, I see where this guy is coming from. Instead of getting mad about Hobby Lobby petitioning to not have to follow the rules of law, government and society because of their religion, take a page out of their book and make it work for you and stop following laws you don’t like.