CREEDE HINSHAW: Affordable Health Care Act draws another challenge

FAITH COLUMN: A private business contends portions of federal health reform violate its freedom of religion



I cannot think of another law so vehemently protested, fiercely litigated and consistently reviled as the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA). The only similar reaction might be the mostly Southern reaction to the civil rights legislation to the 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision which prompted decades-long violent, blatant refusals to treat all people with basic human dignity. To the shame of the church, many who opposed civil rights were people of faith who barred the doors of their congregations to people of color and buttressed their decisions by a torturous reading of the Bible.

Now a case before the Supreme Court – again – could knock the underpinnings from the ACHA. Hobby Lobby, a for-profit corporation, is suing to be exempted from providing contraceptive care to its employees as mandated by the law. Hobby Lobby claims it is legally a person whose religious rights are being violated.

It is hard to imagine where we’ll be if the Supreme Court allows for-profit companies to do whatever they want dictated by their “religious freedom.” Such a ruling would seem to lead to drastic steps backward. If for-profit corporations are “people” in the eyes of the law, will the next step be to permit discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender, sexual orientation and disability by corporations and companies who use the Bible as their reason?

Hobby Lobby says it is a company that operates by religious precepts and should be exempt from full compliance with the contraceptive parts of the Affordable Healthcare Act. They oppose abortion. But somebody has pointed out that the vast majority of their wares come from China, a nation whose official policy has included forced abortions and sterilization. So much for religious principles.

Even though most Americans oppose abortion, they don’t feel the same way about birth control, nor do they want the government interfering between a woman and her doctor. Contraceptives are an option in basic healthcare and it is not onerous for corporations to provide that option to their employees.

Our nation has struggled for decades to help the poorest and unhealthiest persons to receive better care but unyielding resistance from those who already have excellent healthcare has always carried the day.

This law is not perfect and its rollout has been a disaster. A congressional hearing in Georgia, organized by those who fiercely oppose the law, found (gasp!) citizens who opposed the new law. A law with this many ramifications will need to be amended and modified over the years.

But this system of healthcare – long overdue – will be an improvement for those who have no coverage, who must go to the emergency room for their most basic needs, who have been denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and who are children of poverty. The richest nation on earth, supposedly one of the most religious nations, must provide basic health care for those who so desperately need it. People of faith should be the strongest supporter of such care.

Creede Hinshaw, of Macon, is a retired Methodist minister.