The pro-and-con essays in “Do companies have religious conscience” (Op-ed, March 2) — “Our legal heritage favors religious freedom” and “Unfair advantage would spur abuse of exempt status” — are welcome contributions to an important discussion, but the discussion seems never to address a central question.
The question is not whether people should be allowed to express religious views freely and embody those views in their own private conduct. No one is arguing that they shouldn’t. What’s really at issue is the extent to which some people should be able to use money and power to control the conduct of people with less money and power.
Much concern has been voiced for the consciences of business owners and church officials who want to stop a government plan to make contraceptives more readily available, even though no one will be forced to use them. But there’s minimal respect for the consciences of people, such as employees who might use contraceptives, who are not in a position to impose their religious views on others.
Why is the “religious freedom” of the Hobby Lobby family more important than mine? Answer: Because they can afford to assume that they should be allowed to control their employees, while I am not rich enough to own a business, mount an advertising campaign, or buy a piece of a candidate for office.
I wish I could do more to persuade other people to think as I do, but I don’t think I should be able to use religion to push other people around. Nor should anyone else.