Group protests court's Hobby Lobby ruling

Tri-City HeraldJuly 3, 2014 

Christa Silas Merrick, 23, of Richland, joins Thursday's protest outside Kennewick's Hobby Lobby store. About 10 people participated in the demonstration organized by the Tri-City Freethinkers against the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in a case brought by Hobby Lobby.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald

A handful of Tri-City residents protested Thursday outside the Hobby Lobby craft store in Kennewick in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing some corporations to decide what birth control options employee health plans can cover.

There were about 10 people, mostly women, when the protest started at 9:30 a.m. They waved to drivers on Canal Drive and carried signs that read: “Boycott Hobby Lobby” and “Bigotry is not a hobby.”

Some passing cars honked and a few drivers flashed a thumbs down to the protesters.

“We shouldn’t be turning this direction in this country,” said Margaret Smoot of Richland, one of the organizers.

A manager for the Kennewick store referred questions to the chain’s national office. A company spokesperson said Hobby Lobby’s attorneys are handling most questions about the ruling but that the company isn’t commenting on individual protests outside its stores.

Earlier this week, U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, sided with Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, a furniture company, that they shouldn’t have to provide coverage for four forms of contraception as required under the Affordable Care Act.

The companies believe the disputed contraceptives, including the so-called Plan B morning-after pill and intrauterine devices, or IUDs, induce abortions and therefore violate their owners’ Christian faith.

The court’s decision is limited to closely held corporations, or corporations where more than 50 percent of the value of the outstanding stock is controlled by five or fewer individuals.

Such companies employ a little more than half of the country’s workers, according to studies from researchers at Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Columbia University.

On Tuesday, the justices further clarified that affected companies could choose not to provide any of the federally required forms of birth control in their employee health plans if they could demonstrate it would violate their owners’ sincerely held religious beliefs.

Smoot and Richland resident Jennifer Baker said they are dismayed by the decision but were particularly driven to organize the Kennewick protest after former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin called for a Hobby Lobby Love Day to celebrate the decision.

“We don’t want that kind of love in this country,” Smoot said. “It’s discriminatory.”

The women reached out through social media and word of mouth to encourage people to attend Friday’s demonstration.

Some who came said it was wrong of the court to force workers to observe the religious views of the corporation they work for.

It also is a medical issue, some said, because the controversial contraceptives are sometimes medically necessary. Baker said she received an IUD years ago to better treat some other health issues. She said such a device typically costs at least $1,000 along with the procedure to implant it.

“Thank goodness I had insurance,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford it.”

There also are concerns about how the recent ruling could be expanded.

The protesters fear the decision could lead some federal contractors to seek a religiously based exemption from a recent executive order prohibiting discrimination against employees because of their sexuality.

Others said they hoped the protest would encourage people to learn more about the issues and to consider whether corporations should have the same rights as individual citizens.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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