CNN’s Costello: If Hobby Lobby Prevails at Supreme Court, Will It ‘Open Up a Can of Worms?’

CNN’s Carol Costello seemed unable to comprehend why Hobby Lobby opposes the federal mandate in ObamaCare to cover emergency contraceptives and abortifacients. On the June 26 edition of CNN Newsroom, the host continually suggested that such exemptions only make sense for actual churches, rather than practicing Christians.

Costello stated in her introduction of the story that critics – they remained unnamed – claim that if Hobby Lobby prevails it could mean “tomorrow’s civil rights disaster.” Costello noted that Catholic bishops are also opposed to the federal mandate, but then questioned her guest, CNN Vatican analyst John Allen, with an exasperated voice if Hobby Lobby is really the “same as the Catholic Church, though.” Costello did not back down from this assertion either; later in the segment she pushed the same argument [MP3 audio here; video below]:

John, I think critics would say Hobby Lobby is not a church. Like, the Catholic Church is a church and there's a priest, but Hobby Lobby is just owned by evangelical Christians. Um, they don’t–I mean, so is it different in that sense?

The CNN host just seemed to be searching for affirmation on her idea that the church–which preaches Christianity–is somehow different from those who practice it. Allen noted that the courts were treating for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby separately from non-profits like certain Catholic universities or the Little Sisters of the Poor. Allen claimed that a decision was important here to lay a precedent for the non-profit cases:

So I think the Court wants to get out of the way the question of whether a for-profit corporation can be said to have religious beliefs. That's what at issue in this case or at least it’s one of the issues and then it will get around to the more traditionally sort of religiously affiliated actors out there in how the mandates apply to them.

Costello, once again citing critics, asked constitutional lawyer Gloria Browne-Marshall whether the Hobby Lobby case would open up a can of worms:

It could mean companies could fire employees because they're single and pregnant or if the owner is a Christian scientist and owns the–no one could get health care at all. Would that happen if Hobby Lobby prevails in this case?

Browne-Marshall confirmed her fears, and commented about the growing “human attributes” that she claims are being increasingly given to corporations:

If we open the floodgates and say that this particular company, because of the owner's practice of religion, in a certain way, does that mean other people, if they don't practice, they don't go to church on a regular basis but they have certain spiritual beliefs...how far are we willing to take what it means to have religious practice or have spirituality or a certain faith? But also people are very concerned about the human attributes that are being given to corporations, such as Citizens United, speech rights, all the way to religious practices of a corporation, how far are we going with this? I think that's a major concern when we open the box.

Costello simply does not seem to understand the Christian concept of  vocation, the idea that Christians have a responsibility to glorify God through their work, and that the way Christians work is itself a form of worship. To demand a Christian sin in his work by actively violating his conscience, therefore, is to infringe on his First Amendment freedom of worship.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that liberal journalists like Costello don’t seem to grasp that concept,  but it’s not as though their ignorance is invincible. It is, rather, a form of willful ignorance and downright hostility to the notion that one’s religious conscience cannot be segregated to the four walls of his or her church.

The relevant portion of the transcript is below:

CNN
CNN Newsroom
June 26, 2014
9:40 a.m. Eastern

CAROL COSTELLO, host: It is the Supreme Court ruling that everyone has been waiting for. Will Hobby Lobby, a Christian owned company, be forced to provide emergency contraception as part of its health insurance plan? The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down that decision today. Now, if Hobby Lobby prevails, critics say it could result in tomorrow's civil rights disaster. Hobby Lobby already covers birth control for its employees. Its issue is with requirement in ObamaCare to cover emergency contraception as well. The company objects to four drugs, the morning after pill, Plan B, Ella, and two forms of IUDs. Hobby Lobby says these drugs are potentially life-terminating, although there is no scientific basis for that assertion. But Hobby Lobby is taking no chances. It is lobbying its position on YouTube.     

NARRATOR: While the Green family has no objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA approved drugs and devices under the federal mandate, providing four of the drugs and devices that have the potential to terminate a life conflicts with their faith.

STEVE GREEN, President of Hobby Lobby: This is an issue of life, we cannot be a part of taking life. And so, to be in a situation where our government is telling us we have to be, is incredible.     

CAROL COSTELLO: Gloria was caught in traffic so she's on the phone with us but we appreciate your hanging in there, Gloria. We do appreciate that. So Gloria, I’ll pose the first question to you, which way do you think the court is leaning?

GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, constitutional law professor: Well, we have the case earlier, the other religious case and the court was divided because it says that the government could exercise some diversity in allowing prayer before governmental services or governmental programs began in the morning but this is a little different. I think the science says that this is not ending a life and that is the main issue the Green family has with this, I think that the court is going to say that the exceptions will become the rule if we allow these different companies to take on religious freedom that's well beyond anything that the court has seen so far.

COSTELLO: Interesting. So John, Hobby Lobby insists– actually it insists that this is not about abortion politics but religious freedom. Catholic bishops also object to this federal mandate. Is Hobby Lobby the same as the Catholic Church, though?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN Vatican analyst: Well, no. I mean, the Green family that runs Hobby Lobby are evangelical Christians, not Catholics. But on this issue I think they are basically of one mind because you’re absolutely right. For them this isn't even primarily about contraception but primarily about religious freedom. There is a broad cross-section of faith based groups in America that believe religious freedom is being eroded. I think that's what makes this case so difficult and why it ended up in the courts rather than being resolved politically. Because on both sides, because on the other side of course, Carol, there are some who would see this case as being `about the separation of church and state and public policy not being held hostage to religious dogmas. So both sides have a broader agenda. One other thing we might say, Carol, is regardless of how the court rules in the Hobby Lobby case there's a whole nother cluster of cases having not to do with for-profit corporations but non-profits, such the University of Notre Dame and the Little Sisters of the Poor, there are 51 such cases that are also moving their way through the courts. So regardless of what happens with this ruling we have likely not seen the last of the legal fight over the contraception mandates.

COSTELLO: John, I think critics would say Hobby Lobby is not a church. Like, the Catholic Church is a church and there's a priest, but Hobby Lobby is just owned by evangelical Christians. Um, they don’t–I mean, so is it different in that sense?

ALLEN: It clearly is different from the court's eyes. I think that's why the cases and of course it's not just Hobby Lobby. There's also another company, called Conestoga Woodworks, that is owned by a Mennonite family. It’s why the for-profit cases are being judged separately from the non-profit, again such as the University of Notre Dame, the Little Sisters of the Poor, which is what you and I more customarily think of as  religious outfits. So I think the court wants to get out of the way the question of whether a for-profit corporation can be said to have religious beliefs. That's what at issue in this case or at least it’s one of the issues and then it will get around to the more traditionally sort of religiously affiliated actors out there in how the mandates apply to them.

COSTELLO: Gotcha. So Gloria, Some say if Hobby Lobby prevails it could open this ugly can of worms. It could mean companies could fire employees because they're single and pregnant or if the owner is a Christian scientist and owns the–no one could get health care at all. Would that happen if Hobby Lobby prevails in this case?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Well, we have to look at the practice of religion. Because, in a way, if we open the floodgates and say that this particular company, because of the owner's practice of religion, in a certain way, does that mean other people, if they don't practice, they don't go to church on a regular basis but they have certain spiritual beliefs...how far are we willing to take what it means to have religious practice or have spirituality or a certain faith? But also people are very concerned about the human attributes that are being given to corporations, such as Citizens United speech rights, all the way to religious practices of a corporation, how far are we going with this? I think that's a major concern when we open the box.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.