Curious, I began to look for more pictures by googling “stand with Hobby Lobby” and found many similar memes. What I realized is that the main argument is one for religious freedom and against the persecution of Christian businesses. However, I’m not sure that this argument is actually valid, or if this argument is merely being used as a vehicle to rile up public support for Hobby Lobby.
First, let’s get some background information on the issue. Last year, Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit contesting the regulations in the ACA that require companies to provide coverage for emergency contraceptives in their health insurance. This case has gone to the Supreme Court, as the corporation is now claiming religious persecution. The family that owns Hobby Lobby, headed by founder and billionaire David Greene, believes that their religious beliefs “forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices,” and are arguing that the regulations violate their right to religious freedom. This is the first major case against the newly enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and will definitely set the precedent for any future conflicts.
Media perception has been mixed. While news outlets the likes of Salon claim that this case is simply a Republican agenda setting strategy, social media has run rampant with support pleading people to “stand up for religious freedom” with memes the likes of the ones above.
In my opinion, the social media response begs the question of whether or not this is what the Republican Party wanted. This “popular public support” of an anti-ACA issue could be just what the party needs to help take down the Affordable Care Act (despite a new poll showing support from most Americans). Conversely, even if agenda setting wasn’t the initial intentions of Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit, this case can still be used as a vehicle to carry an agenda by the Republican party.
But is there any proof of this? By going straight to the source—the media—it seems pretty clear that this may well be the case. Many members of the Republican Party are openly supporting Hobby Lobby and its fight; from Congressmen going on record to Fox News’ public support, the opinion among the party is undeniable. There is no denying where the party stands on this issue, and polls show that there is no denying where conservatives stand on the Affordable Care Act.
The connections are clear. The Republican Party supports Hobby Lobby, and the Republican Party is using the news media and social media to show their support. This public derision of the ACA has substantially affected the opinions of the public who identify as conservatives. Absent of facts, the party has been using scare tactics to take down and discredit the Affordable Care Act (albeit the someone rocky launch of the ACA didn’t help to assuage anyone’s fears). What’s more, by refusing to provide emergency contraceptives, Hobby Lobby is effectively discriminating against its female employees, all the while the Republican Party is supporting them.
By promoting this through social media—such as asking fans to “share for support” and “like if you support religious freedom”—conservative interest groups are amassing a large audience. Considering that this audience is based in social media, it’s safe to assume that their followers’ support is based more on fear-mongering from the groups (“they’re gonna take your rights away!!!”) than from an interest in the facts. The internet has a tendency to give stories a life of their own, and these groups, at the behest of the Republican party, have given this story legs to run rampant all over social media.