A Free-Market Defense of Hobby Lobby

Every business owner knows the motto of the free market: The customer is king.

Would that the Federal Government could manage to remember this motto even occasionally.  The Green family and their family-owned and operated company, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., have found themselves in a bit of a tight spot over the last few months.  Their religious convictions prevent them from offering health insurance coverage for contraceptives, but the Federal Government is requiring it nonetheless, charging the company a $1.3 million/day fine for failure to comply.

Now, I should point out that I’m not against all government regulations, nor do I oppose governments stepping in to make sure that businesses treat their customers and employees fairly and with respect.  Companies that steal from their employees or their customers through deceptive measures deserve both reprimands and penalties.  Both from their own customers and third parties.

But from what I can tell, Hobby Lobby’s not getting a bad rap from its customers or its employees.  If there were need for some punishing regulations from the Feds, wouldn’t we have heard about it?  But let’s look at how Hobby Lobby treats their customers and employees.  CEO and Founder, David Green, notes:

“We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week’s biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God’s grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We’ve not only added jobs in a weak economy, we’ve raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.”

It would appear, to the average American, that Hobby Lobby is one of those companies that many Americans would love to work for.  Their employees are treated well and respectfully, and the company seems to care about them and their families.  Add to that the health care that the company is happy to provide all qualifying employees, one has to wonder what exactly the issue might be.

And when we look closely, the issue is not a business one, nor is it about protecting the rights of people.  The issue is a religious one.

It is because of the Greens’ religious beliefs that they do not wish to provide coverage for contraceptives.

And it is on this issue that I believe our Federal Government should agree to be silent.  The right to freedom of religion doesn’t apply only to individuals, but to organizations and companies as well.  That’s partly what makes our free market so fantastic – consumers have the ability to choose!  As consumers and potential customers of the elaborate buffet that is the American marketplace, we can support the companies we want to support.  There is no question that regulations should exist to handle those who cheat the system and attempt to achieve an unfair advantage, but there is no need to dock a company that refuses to offer certain health care coverage because it violates their religious convictions.

And one can’t throw the “Christian” yellow card here, either, because I’m more than happy to allow that if for some reason, an otherwise fair and upstanding company didn’t want to offer the same coverage due to their atheistic, Islamic, Buddhist, or ________ religious views, the government shouldn’t force it on them either.  Coverage for contraceptives shouldn’t be a mandatory deal across the board.  If it’s the standard coverage, that’s one thing, but requiring all companies to abide by such a mandate is ludicrous, and will be the undoing of whatever remains of our free market system.

Every company has the freedom and right to impose certain standards on their employees.  They make these standards known prior to hiring.  The same should apply to any and all health insurance policies.  If Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to cover their employees’ purchasing of contraceptives, let a “regulator” make certain that they inform their employees of this.  The solution is simple – the employees who don’t care about it will stay, and those who do will leave.  It’s called a free market.  We have the freedom to work where we like and where we can thrive.  If this issue is important enough to the affected employees, they’ll leave.

And does it impact the Hobby Lobby customer base?  We’ll find out.  The lesson ought to be that the government should agree to stay out of the issue of religious freedom and that it gives the liberty of punishing a company for holding such religious beliefs to the customer and employee.  If an employee has a problem, they’ll quit.  If a potential customer believes such a position is ridiculous, they’ll spend their dollars elsewhere.  

After all, where else do you have such freedom and liberty in the marketplace?  Wouldn’t it be great if our government supported the economy that we proudly claim to have?

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On a side note, if you care to sign a petition requesting the Obama administration grant Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. exemption from the Affordable Care Act, you can do so here: White House Petition.

 

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