The Christmas holiday traditionally comes with three guarantees: wonderful gifts, fattening foods, and … badgering arguments with relatives and in-laws over the dinner table on political subjects.
And one hot topic for holiday dinner debate in recent years has been Obamacare. While I’d normally anticipate Christmas gatherings with dread due to the silly subjects conservative family and friends would introduce, this year I was a bit more lighthearted because their principal arguments – it’s illegal, it’s socialist – have been repeatedly disproven, even in federal court.
Then I heard the latest one going around, which only made me want to spike the eggnog a little stronger. The latest claim circulating around on this religious holiday? Obamacare is an attack on the religious beliefs of business owners.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the argument of Hobby Lobby, a national retail chain that claims inclusion of prescription birth control medication in employee health insurance is a violation of its religious beliefs. This federal Affordable Care Act law, then, cannot be enforced on this or other companies, it argues.
What I can remind these conservative acquaintances of, and especially over this religious holiday of Christmas, is that many other companies are already required to recognize the beliefs and practices of other faiths.
I can use my own personal experience in the argument, too. I’ve had two Jewish employers (one a large wine and spirit distributor, the other proprietor of a historic entertainment facility) who had to accommodate my Christian beliefs. I either got Christmas Day off of work with pay or got time-and-a-half pay or bonus for working on this religious holiday, just like those employed by Christian-owned companies did.
After all, Christmas – celebrated as the day Jesus Christ, son of God, was born – is an official U.S. holiday. It’s one of only 11 recognized by the federal and all state governments, in fact.
And because it’s the only federal holiday pertaining to a particular faith, that can make its recognition rather discriminatory.
There’s no official recognition of any of the Jewish holidays, such as Hanukkah and Passover, for example, and even though those particular two normally overlap with Christian holidays. (My Jewish employers didn’t close business for those holidays, either.)
No branch of government throughout the country recognizes any holidays of the Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jain or any other faiths, either.
And no private enterprise employer has to recognize the holidays of these religions. While the Civil Rights Act prevents employers from discrimination based on religion in hiring, it doesn’t require employer recognition of the religious holidays of non-Christian employees.
This selectiveness isn’t limited to Christmas alone. For example Good Friday, the Christian holiday preceding Easter Sunday, is an official holiday recognized in 13 states and three U.S. territories. All state and local government facilities in those states and territories are officially closed in recognition of that day, which is solely applicable to only one religious group. Shoot, even the stock market exchange is closed for Good Friday.
In my native home of New Orleans, all government offices, schools and many businesses (including both of the Jewish-owned companies I worked for) would close for the Christian holiday of Ash Wednesday, too. (Most businesses in the area would close simply because that holiday followed Fat Tuesday celebrations, I must admit.)
So if Jews and others of different faiths have to recognize a Christian holiday in operation of their businesses, according to the government, how can a company object to a government policy that doesn’t adhere to its own religious preferences?
This secularization in celebration isn’t limited to religious beliefs, either. Five southern states take it upon themselves to close all government offices for Confederate Memorial Day, and two officially honor the president of that one-time rebel nation by closing for Jefferson Davis Day. Three even combine the federal holiday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with their own recognition of Gen. Robert E. Lee Day.
So if African-American employees of particular states are told by their government employers to stay home from work, and to honor the same folks who fought for the enslavement of their ancestors and inhumane treatment of their race, how on earth can Hobby Lobby complain about the ACA’s contrast with their secular beliefs?
I’m confident my arguments can stifle theirs, but I still hope the far-right relatives and acquaintances will give up their arguments before dessert. That’s when things can get messy.
All that aside, I do wish you – and even them – a very Merry Christmas.