October 23, 2013

"Supreme Court to Decide Whether Corporations Can Pray."

Snarky headline at the Bill Moyers website on an article about the pending Supreme Court case dealing with whether religious persons who have set up their business using the corporate form can be compelled by the government to provide their employees with health insurance that covers drugs that they believe murder human beings.

The case isn't about praying. It's about money and what it means to be compelled to contribute your money to something that you sincerely believe God requires you to fight to the end. I think it's close to the same problem that individuals face when they pay their taxes and believe that something the government is using the money for is deeply wrong. For example: war.

But the Bill Moyers operation thinks mocking religious people is a good move. I say it's prime jackassery... except to the extent that it's old-school, left-wing hatred of corporations. Let's see how they feel if Hobby Lobby loses its case — as I think it will — and its owners dissolve the entire operation to maintain religious purity — would they? — and throw 13,000 employees out of work. I suspect the the Bill Moyers folk would double down on their contempt for religion.

The article is written by Joshua Holland, not Moyers himself, but it is tweeted under Moyers' name. Moyers, the man, is 79, so I wonder if it's really him tweeting or whether it's some soulless incorporated entity doing business under the name Moyers & Company. Isn't it nice to say "company" instead of "corporation"? It's like back in the 1950s when your mother said "company's coming over" when family or friends were joining you for dinner.

So here's Joshua Holland, who's identified not as a legal expert, but as "a senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com," and he's mostly just doing extracts from the amicus brief of the Constitutional Accountability Center.
The brief notes that the religious owners of the corporations have no obligation to do anything that contradicts their personal beliefs. The law applies to the corporations, which the law views as separate “persons” — corporations are themselves entities, and they can’t actually kneel down and pray.
But religious persons do business using the corporate form. Do you want to say that they must thereafter choose between doing business in that form or following their religion? If you were doing something you sincerely believed God would send you to hell for doing, do you think that by setting up a corporation to conduct that activity, God would not count it against you? The fact that "corporations are themselves entities" doesn't solve the problem! Let's say that you wanted to kill someone, and instead of doing it yourself, you paid another person to do the killing. The fact that the other person is himself an entity for legal purposes does nothing to cut off the guilt. That is easy to see.

Holland writes, quoting the amicus brief:
Here’s a key point: nobody has to form a corporation in order to do business. They do so because it brings real benefits under the law.
True, but so what? What is the general principle here? To take advantage of a legal form is to abandon your rights? On that theory, the government can censor the New York Times (and BillMoyers.com).

I don't mean to say that I think Hobby Lobby should win this case. I just feel compelled to point out what the Moyers company is smugly ignoring: Corporations are important and necessary tools for human activities conducted on a large scale; people care about their morality and their religion even as they conduct the activities by which they earn their living; and there are deep religious convictions at stake as the government binds us together in the immense undertaking of providing for everyone's medical treatments.

I can see I'm just saying, come on, Bill, at least show some respect for the values you mean to crush. I do see the absurdity.

53 comments:

Malesch Morocco said...

Ah. "Daisy Chain Moyers". Hell has a special place for him.

Tom said...

We're a long way from John Stuart Mill...

Bob R said...

Moyers and his ilk spend a lot of time thinking of reasons that they should be allowed to strip people of their constitutional rights. Signing incorporation papers is just one of their favorite.

richlb said...

To be fair, Moyers & Company is the name of the program, as the "company" is the group of guests, not necessarily synonymous with "corporation".

But other than that, Moyers is a weasel.

ThomasD said...

"as the government binds us together in the immense undertaking of providing for everyone's medical treatments."

Paging Dr. Mengele. Dr. Mengele to the white courtesy phone...

Ann Althouse said...

"To be fair, Moyers & Company is the name of the program, as the "company" is the group of guests, not necessarily synonymous with "corporation"."

I know, and I spent some time trying to see what the form was. There's also BillMoyers.com which seems to be a "dot-com" -- com... so commercial?

Where does Holland work? He's a senior digital producer which indicates a business of some size. (There must be junior digital producers, no?)

Is it incorporated? I tried to Google it and got to the Wikipedia article about the show.

What I'm poking around about is that Bill Moyers is a specific, individual, human entity and also the name of one or more entities that are forms within which numerous human entities do their work and earn their money.

Bill Moyers is a brand that conveys a certain dignity/foolery. What is Bill Moyers? And who are the people who buy what is sold under that brand?

Glen Filthie said...

The Christian faith has survived the Romans, hordes of barbarians, communists, fascists...I am sure they will outlast these pasty faced, panty waisted leftists and their phony rainbow ideologies. I suspect that the cross will still be standing when the lefties rip up Old Glory and wipe their asses with it.

Ann Althouse said...

I mean, isn't it nice for them that they can appear to the world as if they are a group of good, thoughtful people who are sharing their contemplations with us?

Why don't we notice that it is an operation of some size, trading off a brand name, and earning plenty of money for a set of persons who have the pleasure of making money promoting ideas and agendas they like?

Renee said...

Not Hobby Lobby, but I remember a business owners stating to the effect.

"I don't want to get into your bedroom, the government is demanding I go into you bedroom."


Employers want to know everything about your health and personal activity. Why does human resources want to know if eat enough vegetables or smoke? Should the government penalize companies if they don't offer gym memberships? Should the government penalize companies if their employees are obese?

When I pay taxes, the government does what it wants with the money. I may disagree, but the government is doing the action of payment.

When an employer pays his employee their wages, the employer has no say once there is transfer. The employer doesn't know what I buy for groceries. The employer doesn't know if Im active or a couch potato.

As an employer, I'm directly participating in the action with the threat of a very stiff penalty if I don't comply with the government if I do not directly buy something for my employees.

Fertility isn't a medical ailment or a health problem, it is a sign of health.

Classes on natural family planning (which has their own insurance coding) is not covered as free preventative care. So the plan would cover an IUD, but not classes by a trained nurse on the Billings/Marquette method.

Steve Nelson said...

"Moyers is a weasel."

That, sirrah, is a gross libel on weasels! Good Day!

sykes.1 said...

If Christians, especially Catholics, were to adopt the Muslim response to religious bigotry this problem and Maher and Moyer would go away.

Bob Boyd said...

Moyers is a televangelist.


Hagar said...

Snark is what Bill Moyers does.

Graham Powell said...

Legal question: if Hobby Lobby was a sole proprietorship instead of a corporation, would it still be obliged to provide the same coverage and care? If so, that pretty much destroys the "it's a corporation!" argument, since a sole proprietorship is tied to an individual.

Inkling said...

You quote this remark: "The brief notes that the religious owners of the corporations have no obligation to do anything that contradicts their personal beliefs. The law applies to the corporations, which the law views as separate “persons” — corporations are themselves entities, and they can’t actually kneel down and pray"

Being consistent with that principle would mean that activists cannot criticizing executives for what a corporation does, particularly if it is: 1. legal and 2. profitable.

Also, if corporate executives can be forced to do something that violates their beliefs about right and wrong then it is certainly most out of place for someone else (say the Sierra Club) to attempt to impose their beliefs about right and wrong on those executives or any corporate decisions they make.

EDH said...

If you were doing something you sincerely believed God would send you to hell for doing, do you think that by setting up a corporation to conduct that activity, God would not count it against you?

In other words, God can "pierce the veil".

Kit Carson said...

The development of the Limited Liability Company was one of the key innovations of the west that allowed them the birth the modern world and all of its fantastic progress.

damikesc said...

Read up on Moyers' behavior in the LBJ administration. Makes his holier-than-thou act now quite amusing.

AJ Lynch said...

I seem to remember many libs mocking Romney when he argued corporations are people.

Broomhandle said...

Oof, Ann,
That's some heavy-handed irony at 7:22.

Jum said...

It has always astounded me that Bill Moyers is so eager to promote the fact he is an ordained minister. I was amazed because I assumed he had at least a modicum of self-knowledge, and would have regularly examined his own heart, words and deeds.

On the contrary, the seething hatred that comes boiling out of the man is so embarrassingly, humiliatingly at odds with the fact of his 1954 Southern Baptist ordination. Moyers seems to be of the Jimmy Carter school of religion, in which the adherent becomes ever more harsh, bitter and vituperative about those with whom he differs politically and culturally, apparently viewing mistaking his political views as moral ones, and mistaking his won views as an expression of holy writ.

But then pretensions to moral and spiritual superiority are an old and respected tradition among the among the leftists and statists who today make up the rank and file of the Democrat Party.

Shouting Thomas said...

Liberals seems to believe that Moyers is a somber, serious intellectual.

My ex-congressman recently sent out an e-mail that linked to a Moyer's article about the Tea Party and Obamacare.

The article was a vacuous rant. Here's the entire content, paraphrased:

If you disagree with Bill Moyers, you are a racist and you probably belong to the Ku Klux Klan.

I kid you not. That was all he had to say.

Deirdre Mundy said...

The odd thing about the whole liberal side of the argument is that they seem to think that people have no choice about where they work.

If someone valued free contraception more than the other pay and benefits Hobby Lobby provides, she would work somewhere with free contraception! Heck, if she suddenly decides she wants it, she can leave Hobby Lobby and go work at Michaels!

It's not like the employees are serfs, bound to the stores.

Heck... Hobby Lobby could cut everyone's hours and dump them on the exchanges like so many of the companies run by NON-believers.... except that because they believe that God wants them to treat their employees justly, they also feel obligated to provide self-insurance...

It's like the liberals are deliberately targeting the businesses least likely to dump people on the exchanges.... is the end-game to have everyone on the exchange?

Pettifogger said...

Lefties tell us that government is the name for things we do together. Thinking about that and about corporations, I think that:

1. Corporations are the name for things people do together voluntarily.

2. Government is the name for things people do together under fear of punishment.

When viewed in that light, it's easy to see why lefties disparage corporations and promote government. They don't want people acting to better themselves. They want people dependent on lefty political programs, so as to enhance lefties' power and prestige.

Freder Frederson said...

Let's say that you wanted to kill someone, and instead of doing it yourself, you paid another person to do the killing. The fact that the other person is himself an entity for legal purposes does nothing to cut off the guilt. That is easy to see.

Would you accept this argument on an Exam? I doubt it. One major advantage of setting up a corporation is the ability to limit your liability and insulate yourself from its liabilities. Comparing it to murder for hire is completely inappropriate. In fact if your corporation kills someone you will almost certainly not be charged criminally.

Edward Lunny said...

" It's about money and what it means to be compelled to contribute your money to something that you sincerely believe God requires you to fight to the end. " I disagree about the money part. The article makes a similar reference to money, specifically about the corps saving it by submitting to the obamacare restraints. Superficially money is the subject, but, the reality , the basis for the corporations argument is about their beliefs and morals. The bottom line is that these corporations do not want to be forced to support, in any fashion, some forms of birth control and abortion that is against their beliefs and values. Despite my personal stance on religion, I agree with them. They should not be forced to support practices that are antithetical to their beliefs. I think that considering this argument as a money issue is an attempt to hide or minimalize the moral and ethical reasons for attacking obamacare.

Edward Lunny said...

" Blogger Deirdre Mundy said...
The odd thing about the whole liberal side of the argument is that they seem to think " Yet there is no evidence that they are capable or successful in accomplishing that task . Thinking, that is. They are very good at demanding, well, demanding of others. They themselves seem to escape the demands that they place on others.

Terry said...

Pettifogger wrote: "They want people dependent on lefty political programs, so as to enhance lefties' power and prestige."
There's something more. The idea of any person or any group of persons acting in their own interests, possibly in conflict with the goals of the state, drives them bat shit. That's why they don't like corporations that don't toe the line, that's why they don't like home schooling and private schools, that's why they don't like religion, that's why they don't like the 2nd amendment.

Lost My Cookies said...

"Where does Holland work? He's a senior digital producer which indicates a business of some size. (There must be junior digital producers, no?)"

No. 14 Days after graduation, I was regional VP. Make enough calls to enough suckers...

At any rate, 'juniors' are probably called 'associate' and it all has to do with the plague of Human Resource beetles killing off all the personnel trees.

Lost My Cookies said...

Forgot the quotes on "regional VP", but seriously that's what was on my business card.

Business cards were big back in the day. They bought me 500 and I never left the office. Best seven months of my life.

ken in sc said...

Bill Moyers is an ordained Baptist minister. Unless he has been defrocked, he still is. I don't know about Baptist ordination vows, but many such vows include the phrase, “I renounce Satan and all his works.” Moyers seems to have developed a different point of view on this since he teamed up with LBJ.

Peter said...

It seems hard to ignore that when a government gets big enough it's sure to intrude on personal matters in one way or another.

Why would those on the Left think big, intrusive government will always be on their side?

Terry said...

Peter-
Because they control academia, the press, government unions, and they are working on controlling elections.

Jim said...

If corporations are not people, and do not have first amendment rights to buy advertisements expressing an opinion, then do they have 4th amendment rights to protect "people" from unreasonable search and seizure? I'm an engineer, but this has always seemed the defect in the left's argument against corporate rights.

autothreads said...

Why don't we notice that it is an operation of some size, trading off a brand name, and earning plenty of money for a set of persons who have the pleasure of making money promoting ideas and agendas they like?

Ann, you described just about every politician and public employee. The major reason they show up anywhere is to get their pictures taken and to promote their own "brand".

cubanbob said...

The brief notes that the religious owners of the corporations have no obligation to do anything that contradicts their personal beliefs. The law applies to the corporations, which the law views as separate “persons” — corporations are themselves entities, and they can’t actually kneel down and pray."

But their owners and officers can. Now if Sparky were to complete his thought he should ponder that corporations on their can't send a check to the IRS or purchase "health insurance". Since corporations are seperate persons they and they alone can go to prison for non-compliance of the law. His logic only works if directors and officers are fully immunized individually for actions of the entity. Otherwise the views and beliefs of the entity can be perfectly aligned with the views and beliefs of the directors and officers.

kimsch said...

I personally think that Hobby Lobby should win. The government is treating each and every corporation as if they are exactly the same. Just as it is with Obamacare, where everyone's coverage must include maternity and newborn care even if there is no need for either in a family. I no longer need birth control or maternity care and have no newborns in my home and yet I will have to pay for that coverage.

Renee said...

If the government really wanted no cost contraception/sterilization, they would offer it themselves like public education.

Imagine increasing school enrollment, by making employers pay for it (or be penalized) as a government plan.

Matt said...

"I know, and I spent some time trying to see what the form was. There's also BillMoyers.com which seems to be a "dot-com" -- com... so commercial?"

I'm sure this is a side issue, but at the bottom of the billmoyers.com website is a copyright notice for "Public Affairs Television, Inc." Public Affairs Television, Inc. is a New York corporation. You can find more basic information by searching the NYS Division of Corporations and googling the company name. That would be at least one of the Bill Moyers entities.

It's interesting that they have such contempt for the morals and ethics of corporate higher-ups. I am sure, despite the use of a corporate form, that Public Affairs Television, Inc.'s business decisions are driven in part by Bill Moyers' sense of right and wrong.

Dave Scott said...

Moyers is just another politician getting rich off Foundations and "Coporations" (read PBS). See the attached article.
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/749qcwsk.asp#

Richard Dolan said...

The assumption behind the Moyers website piece is that religious ideas (indeed, any ideas of a conservative nature) are self-evidently stupid, and so unworthy of being engaged seriously. Snark is all you're worth, and it's all you'll get from them.

It's not just that those folks live in a monoculture, and so never have to defend their assumptions, let alone the overarching perspective though which they see everything. It's also a form of discourse that has been shaped by social media and web-culture generally -- you often see it here, too, in the comment strings -- where the nature of the exercise is coming up with snarky put-downs and insults. There was a particularly odd example of that in response to Niall Ferguson's posts on Huff Po and at Project Syndicate. At least the latter cultivates a more high-toned image, and the dialog is usually in keeping with it. But the comments on Ferguson's piece were mostly snark and insult. Contrast that with the last generation's versoin of it -- s typical letter-to-the-editor section, for example. The criticism could be biting (still is in the NYRB and Commentary, for instance), but the tone wasn't personally nasty.

Odd how the medium is shaping the message today.

Dogwood said...

According to whois.net, billmoyers.com is registered to:

Public Affairs Television, Inc.
250 West 57th 718
New York, NY 10107

Sigivald said...

There's also BillMoyers.com which seems to be a "dot-com" -- com... so commercial?

".com" for "commercial" is an old IANA naming convention, and not dispositive of either a commercial entity or any particular form of organization, especially since a fair number of people in the States are occasionally still confused by "not .com" TLDs.

(I could register sigivald.com right now, assuming nobody else has, but that wouldn't make my website a commercial endeavor... IANA doesn't actually care if a .com is commercial, a .net is a network, etc.)

Robert Cook said...

"The assumption behind the Moyers website piece is that religious ideas (indeed, any ideas of a conservative nature) are self-evidently stupid, and so unworthy of being engaged seriously."

What makes you think "religious ideas" are necessarily "conservative?" In fact, religious ideas are very often radical and represent a threat to the orthodoxies of the societies within which they germinate. Jesus didn't die comfortably in bed after a long, peaceful life, after all.

I doubt Moyers, who holds a Master of Divinity degree from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, views religious ideas as "self-evidently stupid," or "unworthy of being engaged seriously." He has had religious figures on his shows over the years many times to discuss the import of religion as a force in society and people's lives.

Robert Cook said...

"...the seething hatred that comes boiling out of (Moyers) is so embarrassingly, humiliatingly at odds with the fact of his 1954 Southern Baptist ordination. Moyers seems to be of the Jimmy Carter school of religion, in which the adherent becomes ever more harsh, bitter and vituperative about those with whom he differs politically and culturally, apparently viewing mistaking his political views as moral ones, and mistaking his won views as an expression of holy writ."

In all the years I have watched Moyers' programs, I have never seen him express or show "hatred," toward ideas with which he disagrees--or the people who hold them--much less "seethe" with it, or become "harsh, bitter, or vituperative." I haven't seen or read everything Moyers has said or written, so I'm sure someone will come up with a "gotcha!" instance of Moyers having expressed a disagreeable thought disagreeably. To that, if so, I respond, "He's human; we can all fall victim to fits of pique and pettiness. We cannot be defined by who we are at our worst or weakest moments, unless those moments make up the whole of our lives." (I'm sure I could even find Shouting Thomas or some of the other ruffians around here to be affable company to share a beer with.)

One can legitimately criticize--even passionately criticize--ideas one disagrees with, and the people who act on those disagreeable ideas, without such criticism equating to hatred.

William Chadwick said...

Maybe Moyers is afraid Hobby Lobby is planning to nuke little girls picking flowers! It could happen!

William Chadwick said...

Maybe Moyers is afraid Hobby Lobby is planning to nuke little girls picking flowers! It could happen!

Hal Duston said...

Here it is:

Scroll down to PUBLIC AFFAIRS TELEVISION.
Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com are productions of Public Affairs Television, Inc. (PAT). The company was founded in 1986 when Bill Moyers left CBS News, ... The co-founder was the veteran broadcast journalist Joan Konner.

cubanbob said...

Maybe Moyers can explain why religious beliefs are different from political beliefs and free speech and thus not worthy of protection for a corporation.

Smilin' Jack said...

If you were doing something you sincerely believed God would send you to hell for doing, do you think that by setting up a corporation to conduct that activity, God would not count it against you?

I don't see the problem. Jews hire goys to turn lights on and off for them on the Sabbath, and God is cool with that.

bbkingfish said...

Althouse said:

"The case isn't about praying. It's about money and what it means to be compelled to contribute your money to something that you sincerely believe God requires you to fight to the end."

Indeed. Exactly what is one saying when she claims she is being "compelled?"

If no external authority forces the employer to provide health insurance to employees, then in what sense is the employer being "compelled" to perform contrary to her religious belief? Is she not free to provide employees equivalent salary in lieu of health benefits?

If Moyers' website description of the issue was snarky (it was), then Prof. Althouse's exceeded tolerable limits for glibness, if you will excuse the circumlocution.

Naut Right said...

The Supremes have said the First Amendment applies to corporations with regard to speech. Should they chose to dismember the First and corporations with regard to free expression and prohibition against making any law disrespecting, well, funny that.

Micha Elyi said...

If you were doing something you sincerely believed God would send you to hell for doing, do you think that by setting up a corporation to conduct that activity, God would not count it against you?

"I don't see the problem. Jews hire goys to turn lights on and off for them on the Sabbath, and God is cool with that."--Smilin' Jack

Nice try, smiley, but Jewish religious law in its entirety never applied to non-Jews.