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Hobby Lobby: against contraceptives but not Viagra

Since last year, representatives of Hobby Lobby have been in and out of courthouses and newspapers due to their refusal to provide their employees with insurance covering certain contraceptives, namely the morning-after pill, due to religious reasons.

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By Martin Castro (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: July 16, 2014

“The company’s policies are so slanted they might as well be lying down, taking a nap.” (Image:  Hobby Lobby/Benderson)

“The company’s policies are so slanted they might as well be lying down, taking a nap.” (Image: Hobby Lobby/Benderson)

Hobby Lobby is a chain of arts and crafts stores with more than 570 locations throughout the US. Since last year, representatives of Hobby Lobby have been in and out of courthouses and newspapers due to their refusal to provide their employees with insurance covering certain contraceptives, namely the morning-after pill, due to religious reasons. After lengthy legal proceedings, the US Supreme Court ruled the company could legally be exempt from covering certain types of birth control since the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage clashed with the religious beliefs of the Hobby Lobby owners.

 A quick online search told me emergency contraceptive pills cost anywhere between $35 and $60. I don’t exactly know how much a Hobby Lobby employee makes, but I’m sure they’d much rather keep that money in their wallets where it can later be used to pay for heating and food. But the point is, a company — an economic entity made up out of supposedly tolerant and (one would hope) non-partisan businesspeople — has been allowed to discriminate against its employees based on a religious principle they hold. If this doesn’t have you picking your jaw up off the floor then I don’t know what will.

While the insurance offered by Hobby Lobby does not cover the morning-after pill and other contraceptives, they seem to have no problem providing coverage for Viagra and vasectomies. How much more cartoonishly evil could a company get? Not much.

I don’t know what’s more offensive: the fact that Hobby Lobby has been allowed to oppress their female employees’ rights based on a religious principle, or that they totally overlook their own religious principles by only covering contraceptive methods used by male employees. This company’s policies are so slanted they might as well be lying down, taking a nap.

Related to the issue of religious beliefs pitted against medical coverage is the fact that some doctors follow in the footsteps of Hobby Lobby in denying certain services based on personal beliefs. In an article on religion and contraception, Konrad Yakabuski from the Globe and Mail included an excerpt from a letter penned by Ottawa doctor Edmond Kyrillos, which stated he would not prescribe any form of birth control due to “reasons of [his] own medical judgment, as well as professional ethical concerns and religious values.” Apparently, 25-year-old Kate Desjardins, the woman referenced in the article, went to another medical facility in order to obtain the contraceptives she was denied by Dr. Kyrillos.

How is it acceptable for a doctor to pick and choose what practices he wants to partake in and endorse based on his religious principles? The fact that Dr. Kyrillos’ office had the nerve to hand Ms. Desjardins such a condescending letter — which not only shamed her but also removed from her immediate grasp a safe, government-approved medical contraceptive — has me scratching my head in disbelief, and I question the kind of policies in place that allow such discriminatory act to occur.

In the end there’s a lot one can say about religious influences in policies and practices all over Canada and the US; however, there is a proper balance between secularism and religion, and we’re not levelling out. Religious practices should be as self-contained as they can be. Let the practitioner practice without encroaching on anyone else’s philosophical boundaries.

The practices of the state, however, should be entirely secular, and those who represent the state should try to be as neutral as they can while acting in an official capacity.

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