Monday, June 30, 2014

A New Legal Entity

In Hobby Lobby, the US Supreme Court today made a tremendous leap of logic by equating small, family-owned enterprises as being representative of the family itself and therefore, entitled to its own religious views, which it can quite happily impose on its employees. In a 5-4 ruling on clear political lines, #SCOTUS deemed that such family-corporations need not pay for employees' contraception, reading down a provision of the Affordable Care Act.

The problem here is not with the ruling per se - contraception has always been a huge issue in America and nobody wants to really bring Roe v Wade back to the Supreme Court (especially this one), and the ACA is hugely controversial in that and many other respects - but with the logic of it, particularly that small, family-run businesses could be equated to the families that run them. This does not fit the doctrine of 'separate legal entity' that companies enjoy, an important doctrine that protects business-owners from unlimited liability, personal and financial. By stepping on this slippery slope, SCOTUS might have opened up a dangerous precedent that could prove dangerous.

Purely as an illustration, family businesses could fire workers for holding contradictory religious beliefs (a Catholic owner could fire a Protestant employee) because the business could be representative of the family itself, which does not want among its members, people of other beliefs. The legal difference between a business and an owner is necessary and important here. The effects of this verdict will be felt for years to come.

Incidentally, such a sharply divided verdict adds extra weight to the 2016 Presidential election because the next President will be able to appoint as many as three justices to the Supreme Court, as pointed out by ABC News. Democrats and Republicans has better buckle up. 

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