CEO David Green of Hobby Lobby has filed a lawsuit against the US Government trying to ensure his company doesn’t have to pay for insurance that would cover contraceptives for female employees. When he filed suit, he wrote an open letter to the public explaining his position which you can read here. I keep seeing this letter spewed across the web so I was finally compelled to respond with my own lovingly-crafted open letter. Enjoy.
Dear Mr. Green,
My name is Carina Kolodny. I am a writer, sex educator, girl power guru and liberal activist hailing from Southern California. I’ve taken birth control since I was 18 and I believe in things like marriage equality, amnesty, a woman’s right to control her own body, sex before marriage, sex worker’s rights and OBAMACare.
I realize that my biographical information might seem irrelevant but I wanted to make sure we were both on the same page before we proceeded. You see, I read your letter (several times, in fact) and was shocked when my immediate reaction was, “I like what this Mr. Green is doing.”
Now let me clarify: I did not like what you said and I definitely do not agree with what you stand for but I like what you are trying to do. That is to say, I like that you are standing up for something that you believe in. I like that you’re protesting. I applaud your willingness to take it to ‘the system’ in spite of the financial or personal burdens that taking it to ‘the system’ sometimes demands. You are standing up to power and that is a position I am all too familiar with even if I am just 24-years-old.
I spent the vast majority of my 24-years holding minority opinions. I think it probably all started in 3rd grade when I solicited my closest confidante to join me in a crusade to rid our school cafeteria of styrofoam lunch trays. From there everything snow-balled. By the time I was 19, I was manning the foghorn at massive LGBT rights protests and day-dreaming about non-violent revolutions.
As a perennial underdog, I found out quickly that I was almost as good at firing people up as I was at pissing people off. I had passion, I had excellent communication skills and I had that particular brand of determined anger that comes from having George W. Bush as President during your formidable teenage years.
So there I was: an underdog with unpopular opinions and that was A-OK with me. That is, until just recently, when I realized suddenly that I wasn’t the underdog anymore.
I, along with the millions of people who held those unpopular opinions (like ‘marriage equality’ or ‘protecting the environment’) worked and educated and activated and organized our way into the majority. We changed hearts and minds, we changed opinions, we changed the political landscape. It’s something I’m fairly proud of though I confess, I’m still adjusting to being in the majority.
So now, as a white, Christian, heterosexual, male billionaire, you are the underdog. (Can you believe that!? I hardly can and I’m the one who worked my ass off to make you the underdog in the first place.)
But we must both face facts: you’re the underdog and that’s an important position because the world needs underdogs.
Underdogs are so important to me that I’ll advise you in your new role even though I don’t agree with what you’re fighting for. As a showing of good faith, I’ll offer you all of this unsolicited advising for free. (After all, you’re going to need that money when OUR President starts fining you.) Let’s jump right in and begin with my first and most important tip.
Tip #1: Choose your battles wisely.
In the battle your currently fighting, your argument is fundamentally flawed. You’re an anti-choice Christian claiming it is against your religion to use birth control. That’s perfectly acceptable. YOU don’t have to use birth control. I’m totally fine with that. But your further assertion that this new healthcare mandate will force your company to pay for birth control is egregious. The mandate forces your company to provide insurance for your employees. The insurance company, in turn, pays for your employees’ doctors and services. Nobody at the family planning clinic is going to be calling you up and asking for the expiration date on your AMEX–the insurance company pays for birth control, not YOU. What you’re really saying is that as a business owner, you want to dictate the healthcare that a 3rd party provides to your employees based upon your personal religious convictions. That’s a pretty poor argument.
Tip #2:`Carefully consider which buzz words and terms to employ.
Back when I was writing campaign copy, I learned the hard way that you have to consider your opponents rebuttal before you write anything they could rebut. It’s fairly common for your own words to be re-employed against you. That’s probably something you should have thought about before you tried to rile people up in the name of religious ‘freedoms’ and ‘liberties.’ When I, your opponent, think of liberties, I immediately think of the individual liberty that you are trying to extinguish. Hidden implicitly in your argument is this: freedom of religion should allow a business owner to override the freedom of a female employee to make her own health choices. You appeal in your letter for liberty but the symbolic liberty that you seek is in direct conflict with the very REAL liberty of individual choice and autonomy. Because you used hot button words and phrases to appeal to your base, I have re-appropriated your language to work against you. (Don’t feel too bad–it’s happened to the best of us.)
Tip #3 Beware of Oversimplifying
It’s tempting to be short and concise but you also must be true to your purpose. You say: “The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law. I say that’s a choice no American – and no American business – should have to make.”
That would be an excellently phrased closing if it came anywhere close to the truth. According to your interpretation, your faith instructs you against abortion and abortion-inducing drugs. The government did not create a law that forces you or anybody to have an abortion or use abortion-inducing drugs. Now, if your religion demanded that you monarchically dictated which health care choices your female employees had access to, you WOULD be forced to choose between your religion and the law. Fortunately for you, your religion demands no such dictation. In other news, there is not a single passage in the Bible that condemns birth control or abortion. In fact, biblically, life is associated with breath which would mean upon delivery. However, The Bible does condemn making judgements about other people or their choices. I’ve referenced for your convenience in case you haven’t read it lately. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1.) Also, “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
Tip #4 Think about your plan long-term.
This last one is of particular value, Mr. Green. Not only for you but for the anti-choice movement in general. Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for the past 40 years despite aggressive and consistent attempts to overthrow it. The anti-choice movement has made small in-roads into the accessibility of abortion but the ‘war on women’ that made those in-roads possible also lost you significant ground across the political landscape. I think it is time for a vastly different strategy.
It might seem strange to hear me dissuading you from you current war path. After all, bringing equality to the LGBT community has taken well over 40 years and we still have more fights ahead of us. The difference, however, is that my activism focuses on moving forward, on opening doors, on liberty and growth. Your activism focuses on going backwards, on closing doors, on stifling liberty and reversing growth.
So let’s think about your target cause and your long-term plan. Your Cause: curtailing a practice that you personally interpret as the ending of a life.
Why is there a need for this practice in the first-place?
The solution, it would seem, would be to put your energy towards sex education and family planning. Logically, your goal should be to stop unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
Were you to take that cause on instead, you’d find quite a few people eagerly waiting to assist you. Together, we could start a revolution of sex education and contraceptive accessibility which could in time massively lower the amount of abortions sought out in the first place.
There are plenty of under dogs, Mr. Green. The ones who succeed are few and far between. As you move forward, I’d think long and hard about where you place your time and energy.
Regardless, I applaud your passion.