The Supreme Court Unleashes Chaos

The Supreme Court handed down its Hobby Lobby decision this week, and it was as bad as many of us had feared. In a 5-4 ruling (of course), five conservative male justices handed down the worst church-state decision in years, possibly even worse than the atrocious Hein decision: that a privately held corporation can impose limits on how workers use the health insurance they’ve earned as part of their compensation.

For better or for worse, past cases about religious exemption have turned on the right of individuals to opt out of laws that conflicted with their beliefs: like Quakers and the draft, or Native Americans and peyote. Never before, as far as I know, has a religious-freedom case recognized a right to impose one’s religious beliefs on others who don’t share them. Even worse, this case wrote an absurdity into law: that a for-profit corporation can exercise religion as if it were a human being.

That said, I don’t expect this decision to make an immediate practical difference. The court strongly hinted that the Obama administration can implement the same workaround they already put in place for religious non-profits, requiring insurance companies to cover contraception at no cost as part of a separate package. The justices as much as said that this solution is constitutional, which is one small bright spot in this ruling, considering that religious anti-choice groups are fighting against that as well. It will mean more red tape and more needless complexity, but it seems likely that few if any women will actually lose access to contraception as a result of this ruling.

What I’m more worried about is the legal chaos this decision will unleash, as corporations suddenly get religion and demand exemptions from all kinds of generally applicable laws. It’s not hard to imagine a few of the ways this could play out:

  • What if a private corporation has a religious objection to labor unions, based on its belief that all people should submit to godly authority without question? Would they be allowed to fire employees for attempting to organize?
  • What if a private corporation has a religious objection to parental leave, based on its belief that women who have babies should devote their lives to motherhood and homemaking? Would they be allowed to fire women for getting pregnant?
  • What if a private corporation has a religious objection to paid sick time, based on its belief that God will heal those who ask for it and that injury or disease is a proof of a sinful lack of faith? Would they be allowed to fire workers who got sick or got hurt on the job?
  • What if a private corporation has a religious objection to environmental laws, based on its belief that God gave us the Earth to use as we see fit? Would they be allowed to ignore laws regulating pollution or waste dumping?
  • What if a private corporation has a religious objection to minimum wage laws, based on its interpretation of Jesus’ parable of the vineyard? Would they be allowed to pay their workers as little as they choose?

I admit, I was confident that the court would rule against Hobby Lobby. I believed that the prospect of unleashing this kind of havoc would be too much for even conservative justices to swallow. As it turns out, they saw this iceberg looming as well; but their attempt to address it may have made the problem even worse.

Specifically, the court said that religious objections to birth control must be accommodated, but that equally strong religious objections to other kinds of laws, like the Civil Rights Act (to which racist business owners likewise wanted religious exemptions), needn’t necessarily be. But this distinction is completely arbitrary. They didn’t say why objections to birth control “count” more than objections to other laws; they made no attempt to explain what the underlying principle is, or even if there is one. Worse, the court didn’t completely bar the door against future lawsuits – they hinted that other demands for religious exemption might be granted as well. As legal experts have recognized, this was a decision of startling breadth.

As far as most corporations are concerned, this could be a gamble worth taking. After all, what’s the risk in dropping a measly few million dollars on legal fees if it could win them a far more valuable exemption from the law, especially since the highest court in the land has just signaled its friendliness to these kinds of claims? This seems likely to lead to a blizzard of lawsuits and mass confusion among lower courts as they try to follow the Supreme Court’s unclear trail.

If there’s one lesson we can take away from this ruling, it’s that the only thing religion stands for or cares about anymore is controlling other people’s sex lives. That is the heart and soul of religious belief, the most sacred and precious calling of the world’s great faiths: telling everyone else where they can and can’t put their genitals. All other aspects of religion are secondary at best; this is the one that the law must never infringe.

In the long run, the churches’ all-consuming obsession with sexual policing will make them objects of ridicule and mockery and further undermine their moral standing. But that doesn’t change the fact that we’ll be dealing with the mischief of this ruling for a generation or more, and it’s small consolation that many of the people who cheered this outcome will soon learn, too late, what it’s like to work for a boss who can force you to heed religious beliefs that aren’t yours.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://pandarogue.blogspot.com/ Yǒuhǎo Huǒ Māo

    This is an atrocious ruling. There’s now precedent, and even if it’s written in that you can’t use this ruling for other purposes, there’s no real justification to that effect. The justification for “only birth control” is hanging on the flimsiest of strands.

  • Pofarmer

    So, are there any other instances of religious carve outs in existing laws? I know you gave the two, but asyou mentioned , those are personal, they don’t allow an individual or company to force it’s views on someone else. This was started by the stupid RFRA law. This decision stands equality under the law, it seems to me, on it’s head. One of the hallmarks of the U.S. is that everyone is subject to the same laws the same way. Not any more, apparently.

  • arensb

    the only thing religion stands for or cares about anymore is controlling other people’s sex lives.

    Pretty much, yeah. Especially given Mother Jones’s investigation into Hobby Lobby’s investment in companies that make the very contraceptives that they oppose.
    Yes, one could argue that the connection is tenuous: they’re not manufacturing Plan B or Ella, they’re just putting money into funds that buy stock in companies that manufacture those drugs. At the same time, they appealed all the way to the Supreme Court not because they were being asked to perform abortions, but because they were being asked to give money to an insurance company (a fund, in effect) that would help pay for a woman to buy those drugs.
    I’ve heard the counter-argument that “well, Hobby Lobby pays generous salaries. Women who want contraceptives or abortifacients can just buy them themselves.” Except that I didn’t see anything in this decision to mandate this: the next company can just refuse to cover contraceptives without compensating for this in salary, in effect lowering its employees’ compensation by some amount.

  • Sneezeguard

    I’m curious if anyone is going to challenge federal employee benefits via the Supreme Courts train of logic here.
    1.) Contraceptives cause abortions, for those people who really and truly believe they do (regardless of what doctors/scientists say.)
    2.) The Hyde Ammendment and Executive Order 13535 explicitly prevent the federal govt. from funding abortions.
    3.) Thus, those people who really and truly believe contraceptives cause abortions are currently paying taxes to subsidize abortions.
    4.) Thus, the FEHB can no longer cover contraceptives.
    I’m not saying they’ll win the argument, I’m just saying I wouldn’t be surprised if they start making it.

  • L.Long

    The is also the give away of automatic tax exemption where secular groups must PROVE where the money goes. But that’s because we know that religious groups are inspired by gawd and would NEVER lie about their monstrous profits or how their leaders never abuse minors. Yes all this phoney religious freedom may have been started to protect various religious but ya know the mafia, KKK and others all started with so called good intentions and look where they went. So of course we do not have to worry about this ignorant BS decision by a few right wing religious nutjobs, because we know that no corporation would ever use this ruling in an abusive manner……TRUST THEM! They are all good people looking out for us….ask any Walmart employee.

  • AndyT

    So, I guess that if a company is led by fundies believing in “God’s healing power” and opposed to traditional medicine, it won’t be requested to provide its employees with a health insurance at all!
    A very nice way to save money using “religious freedom”…

  • unbound55

    #1 is the other big issue with this ruling (in my mind). The actual facts of the case were ignored (the 4 contraceptives in question do not, in fact, cause abortions) to support religious belief. IANAL, but it seems like that is a pretty huge precedence as well as I would think that a lot of people / companies can latch onto that aspect of the ruling to support pretty much anything despite reality simply because they believe it to be true.

  • StealthGaytheist

    I expect this is just the beginning. Everybody is going to be demanding special exemptions from laws they don’t like because of their religious beliefs, and the courts won’t have any grounds to deny them.

  • Pofarmer

    Apparently, reality doesn’t matter when deciding issues of constitutionality. It seems to me that it would have been just as aeasy for the court to deny standing, based on the scientific evidence that the products in question, do not, in fact, cause abortions. So, do we have a court that was just itching to show it’s conservative Christian bonafides?

  • raylampert

    It baffles me that the supposedly most brilliant legal minds in this country could have made such an absurd decision.

    In the summary, the court says, “The belief of the Hahns and Greens implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is immoral for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facilitating the commission of an immoral act by another.”

    Excuse me? So by the Court’s own admission, an employer has the right to control what the employees do with their own wages and compensation if the employer believes that the act is “immoral”. What if the employer believes that eating bacon or drinking alcohol or listening to that newfangled rock and roll is “immoral”? Do they now have a religious right to prevent their employees from spending their own money on their chosen forms of entertainment?

    The RFRA was originally designed to protect groups like Native Americans and Quakers. Now it’s being used to “protect” for-profit corporations from employee rights’ laws? If this is what it’s come to, then we need to either repeal or significantly amend the RFRA.

  • Psycho Gecko

    It helps to know that Scalia really is just pushing a partisan agenda. He tries to hide it by claiming he’s trying to figure out the original intent of the Founders, yet he claims other judges are creating rights not in the Constitution. The most basic understanding of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist debate regarding the Constitution would show that both sides felt that most of the people’s rights were not written down.

    The Anti-Federalists wanted to make sure some were written in there in a Bill of Rights to make sure they were protected. The Federalists thought that if they wrote some down, it would have to be an incomplete list and some idiot later on would construe that to mean that people only had the rights that were written down.

    To compromise on this, they created the 9th Amendment. It’s kinda hard to say judges are making up rights not in the Constitution when the Constitution itself says: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be
    construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    So Mr. Originalist there not only ignores all the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, he ignores one of amendments that is part of the Bill of Rights itself.

  • raylampert

    At the very least, we can be relieved that they only interpreted the HHC regulations in light of the RFRA, rather than making it a First Amendment issue. Since it’s a statutory, rather than a Constitutional-based decision, the remedy to fix it would be statutory in nature. Although the RFRA was passed nearly unanimously, 21 years ago, I think that Congress, with enough prodding, could pass a law that puts the RFRA back into its original intention by limiting it only to individuals and nonprofit associations.

  • Snoof

    What about the fear or prospect of corporate involvement?

    Or can liberty only be harmed by government action, not the actions of private organizations?

  • GoingBig

    Your fuzzy cloud of liberty-loving/let’s-all-have-opinions blahblahblah obscures the unfair treatment dealt out to women by religious bigots by this ruling. Why would we respect the self-serving heavy-handedness of business?

    Women have earned those benefits. Every last one of them. Protection of property rights? It’s women’s property/rights that have been stripped. Those earned benefits are being stripped from them by this ruling.

    Your free market fantasy ignores that this is a privilege only for these religious business organizations. They will be subsidized by other businesses and more likely by their women employees. Religious business organizations are just moochers.

    Freedom to exchange opinions? In a closely-held religious corporation?
    Religious owner: I am free to strip your earned benefits and you women are free to do as you are told.
    And the high-living women at Hobby Lobby are free to take their golden parachute(haha) and their Lexuses to another capitalist boot-strapping haven like MacDonalds.

  • rick james

    Conservative Christian leaning Judges come to this decision… wonder what they will think if this bites them back because some Corporation that is owned and operated by a Muslim wants to institute a Sharia Law like system in it’s corporate policy. Bet those genius idiots never even thought about that… because they were supporting a religion they liked… what happens when they run into an ideology from a religion they don’t like?

  • http://pandarogue.blogspot.com/ Yǒuhǎo Huǒ Māo
  • Pofarmer

    In an ideal world, with perfect mobility for employees, you might be correct. But, we don’t live in that world, do we? What this ruling says is that the owner of a closely held corporation(would this already be true for sole proprietorships?). Can determine which birth control choices are moral or immoral, based on belief, not facts, and restrict it’s employees access to those choices it deems offensive. Is this a slippery slope? I don’t know. Catholic Hospitals in my area are currently denying coverage for procedures like tubal ligation and vasectomies. Will they now up it another notch? Will everyone who disagrees with these losses of freedom be able to just leave?

  • GCT

    This freedom to exchange opinions without the fear or prospect of government involvement us what all athiests should want.

    Ah, no. Why would I want others to have the “freedom” to impose their religious opinions on me? What if their religious beliefs preclude them from hiring atheists at all? What then if you can’t find a job? Well, I guess the silver lining would be that you wouldn’t have to worry about them withholding coverage?

    The government is there to protect our rights. When that is left to corporations and private citizens, it usually doesn’t go well.

  • L.Long

    “supposedly most brilliant legal minds” you means the ones who think a corporation is a person with religious freedom to be a bigot? And force their religious sex controlling bigotry on others.

  • raylampert

    Just because they went to Harvard and Yale doesn’t mean that they have common sense.

  • Martin Penwald

    Non sense. Atheists can be socialists, communists, fascists, libertarians, minarchists, anarchists, etc.
    And I have the feeling that a fairly big part of atheists strongly believe that healthcare and abortion rights are basic human rights, and that a company cannot refuse those to an employee.

  • Science Avenger

    That’s the part that baffled me as well. What’s next, claiming you shouldn’t have to hire [insert traditionally oppressed group here] because you believe they are Satan’s minions and thus hiring them goes against your religion? Since it’s belief and not reality that matters…

  • Pauly CC

    Which may be a good thing in the end. Start removing benefits that people have enjoyed for years under the weight of corporate religiosity and a majority of Americans, believers or not, could bring about a larger cultural and political change.

  • Adam Acuo

    What you want then is to have the government impose your opinions as laws so that you can use the state to enforce your beliefs. That’s what they want as well. In this case it’s just a matter of which side has the largest numbers or the biggest sticks. Sorry to say that under this scenario you will lose every time because they have the numbers. It’s best to keep the government out of it completely – a net win for athiests who make up maybe 5% of the population – and to use logic, reason and arguments to win the day since the facts are on our side.

  • Adam Acuo

    I agree that the government is there to protect your rights. The government isn’t their to make sure that you always get your way though, and what you want is for it to violate the rights of others so that you can get your way. If that’s the case then it’s entirely legitimate for the other side to want to use the government to get *their* way… and hey – welcome to 21st century America!

    If somebody doesn’t want to hire you because you’re an athiests, you can find a job somewhere else. Last I checked, nobody gives a crap what you believe in 99.9% of the cases and in the small fraction of idiots that do care – you wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.

    Look at gay rights as an example – the government did nothing but enable the institutionalized discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and did nothing to protect their rights. It wasn’t until we were able to change societies views that we finally saw positive change – and even then it wasn’t through governments but through referendums and individual pressure.

  • eyelessgame

    It’s apparently 1964 again.

  • GCT

    I agree that the government is there to protect your rights. The government isn’t their to make sure that you always get your way though, and what you want is for it to violate the rights of others so that you can get your way. If that’s the case then it’s entirely legitimate for the other side to want to use the government to get *their* way… and hey – welcome to 21st century America!

    Wait, what? This ruling is blatantly a sop to Xians to allow them to control the lives of others. How is this, in any way, a matter of me trying to violate the rights of others and them not trying to do so? You’ve got it completely backwards here.

    Secondly, I’m not trying to control the rights of others in any other fashion either. Secularism is not the ability to control others, but the idea that government remains neutral.

    If somebody doesn’t want to hire you because you’re an athiests, you can find a job somewhere else.

    Well, let’s see; the last time we tried something like that was the Jim Crow south. It worked out really well for blacks, didn’t it? Also, I’ll point out that this contradicts the idea that you agreed with, that the government is there to protect our rights.

    Last I checked, nobody gives a crap what you believe in 99.9% of the cases and in the small fraction of idiots that do care – you wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.

    Because they are not allowed to care by law. Take some time reading Friendly Atheist and you’ll find cases all the time with religious groups firing employees for not following the beliefs of the employers. Of course, you want to roll that back because…why exactly? Why would you want to roll back protections for people to live their lives the way they see fit?

    Look at gay rights as an example – the government did nothing but enable the institutionalized discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and did nothing to protect their rights. It wasn’t until we were able to change societies views that we finally saw positive change – and even then it wasn’t through governments but through referendums and individual pressure.

    Are you fucking serious? Yes, the government was behind the ball on gay rights. Once the pendulum started to swing, however, it has been the government actually working to overturn discriminatory laws and amendments put in place by bigots. IOW, the government is the one protecting their rights. Do you honestly believe that gays have rights because of the goodness of the majority of people, and that bigots are not acting against gays because they are good people? What country do you live in, because it doesn’t sound like the USA?

  • GCT

    Great idea. Let’s get rid of everyone’s rights in the meantime and hope that eventually we all come around to demanding our rights back. Or, we could just, you know, protect people’s rights from the outset.

  • GoingBig

    Equal treatment under the law is not just an opinion but a constitutional right.

    Allowing your private system is what brought the Jim Crow laws. The government kept out of it that for decades.
    So tell us what you would do with religiously imposed Jim Crow laws.

    When exactly did the religious keep the government from trying to control of women’s bodies? That’s all they do with governments except start wars.

  • Science Avenger

    What you want then is to have the government impose your opinions as laws so that you can use the state to enforce your beliefs.

    That’s totally baseless. Under his scenario (if I may speak for another) HL women who want to use birth control on their insurance plan can, and those who don’t want to don’t have to. It takes some serious mental gymnastics to describe that the way you did.

  • Science Avenger

    If somebody doesn’t want to hire you because you’re an athiests, you can find a job somewhere else.

    You make it sound like its as simple as going over to the next serving aisle if the one you originally chose refuses you service. In the real world, it is FAR more costly than that, often to the point of being a real barrier to movement. Does the term “sweat shop” mean nothing to you? How about “indentured servitude”.?

  • Martin Penwald

    WHAT ?

    If somebody doesn’t want to hire you because you’re an atheist, then it is called discrimination, and it is, to my knowledge, forbidden by law in the USA. Or I have missed something.

  • Martin Penwald

    I know, I know. He lives in the Kingdom of Caring.

  • Azkyroth

    ….no one on earth is actually this stupid. Right?

  • X. Randroid

    #1 is actually the part that bothers me least. US courts always refuse to pass judgment on the merits of a religious belief. They do this because they are a branch of government, and for them to declare that a particular religious belief is correct or incorrect would violate the Establishment Clause. So when confronted with a free-exercise issue, they only ever consider whether the belief is “sincerely held,” not whether it is correct.

    Same thing happens in the cases keeping creationism out of the classroom. The courts haven’t ruled that creationism is false, only that it’s a religious belief.

  • unbound55

    Interesting. However, it is my understanding that the crux of the reasoning for the court’s decision was due to the RFRA, and not the Establishment Clause. This is apparently why FFRF is asking people to write their representatives on that subject. Indeed, FFRF seems to think that repealing (or at least revising) the RFRA would eliminate this issue.

    Even conceptually, I understand that the courts will not outright call a religious belief wrong, but it seems (at least in the cases of creationism) that the courts have been pretty clear that religious beliefs do not override the science. They seem to have consistently ruled that we can discuss creationism all we want, but that you can not teach creationism as a scientific equivalent.

    I’m struggling in understanding how this ruling, where the religious belief of the contraception causing abortions is overruling the actual science of the matter. It really seems to be ruling 180 degrees from the creationism rulings.

  • Pauly CC

    There are a lot of people who would have never let this happen if we had our way. Perhaps if people start losing benefits they have enjoyed for years, it will be a wake up call to bring the change needed to reverse the legislative path that allows it.

    Many people are low information voters until they are personally affected.

  • Speedwell

    Totally this. I have ZERO patience with the “let things get worse before they get better” crowd. How about we not let things get worse at all and avoid the needless suffering?

  • X. Randroid

    Yes, Hobby Lobby is decided on RFRA, which is more closely connected to the Free Exercise Clause. And I do think repealing the RFRA is the correct thing to do, not just to fix Hobby Lobby but to fix the injustice that religious believers get special privileges not afforded to nonbelievers.

    In the case of creationism, the issue before the courts is whether creationism is science or a religious belief. This is because the courts interpret the Establishment Clause (correctly) to mean that science can be taught in public schools, while religious beliefs (no matter how sincerely held) cannot. Even if creationism were somehow correct, as long as the only support the creationists can offer is “my holy book says so,” it isn’t science. Hence, Intelligent Design, which is nothing but an effort to dress up creationism in enough sciency-looking clothes to fool the court.

    In Free Exercise cases, where the only issue is sincerity of belief, the presence or absence of scientific support is legally irrelevant. Otherwise, the court is put in the position of saying “we’ll let you exercise your right, but only if we agree with your belief.”

    To take another example, let’s say J believes that he must run around the block naked three times on the night of the full moon while shouting “Avada Kedavra,” or else his children will become possessed by demons. If he gets arrested for acting on this belief, the legal issue would be whether his belief trumps generally applicable laws against public nudity and/or disturbing the peace, not whether there are demons or whether streaking and shouting can prevent demonic possession. The court has to take J’s claim of belief at face value.

    Same with Hobby Lobby. They’ve asserted a “sincerely held” belief that doing X is sinning and will offend their deity. The court has to take that claim at face value.

  • evodevo

    Surprise, surprise – that’s already happening !! See Rick Warren vs teh gays …… “Narrow” decision not so narrow now.

  • J-D

    It’s interesting, in the abstract, when you think about it a little more. The court can’t say ‘This religious belief is bogus’ but it can say ‘There is no reason to believe this apart from adherence to the religion that teaches it’. Can you fit a cigarette paper between those two? There’s a reason that the religious themselves don’t say ‘There’s no good reason to believe this apart from the fact that it’s a teaching of our religion’.

  • J-D

    Which property rights are you talking about, how do you think they should be protected, and why? You’re not suggesting that governments should make no laws that have any effect on how people use their property? or are you?

  • J-D

    I want the government to do what’s right for the government to do. Don’t you?

    But maybe you and I don’t agree about what’s right for the government to do. So maybe I want the government to do what’s right, in my opinion, for the government to do, while you want the government to do what’s right, in your opinion, for the government to do. That’s fair enough as far as it goes, but it illustrates the point that any conception of the making of laws entirely divorced from people’s opinions is empty.

    In a disagreement between yourself and somebody else, you don’t establish that you’re correct by saying to the other person, ‘That’s your opinion’. My opinion isn’t made correct just by being my opinion, but it also isn’t made incorrect just by being my opinion.

  • eyelessgame

    If you’re white, male, het, cis, able-bodied, avoid unpopular religious organizations, and are the beneficiary of enough social status and background wealth that you’ve never actually been poor enough to need to keep a job because no other is available – then you might well find no real reason, save empathy, to think these libertarian ideals are unrealistic.

    Not everyone, however, is like you.

  • Azkyroth

    How exactly is it an “unwarranted overreach?”

  • Azkyroth

    In what sense is this “the best way?”

  • GCT

    It’s not a membership requirement of atheism to be progressive. There are tons of atheist jerks out there. It’s only a requirement if you also want to be a good person.

  • raylampert

    Alito actually wrote the majority opinion. Although there’s little doubt that he’s a devotee of Scalia. I remember some people nicknamed him “Scalito”. Anyway, I don’t think that they’re pushing a partisan agenda, in the same sense that a congressman or other elected official does. An elected politician pursues an agenda that he believes would result in him winning re-election. Alito, on the other hand, appears to genuinely believe what he’s saying, which makes it all the scarier.

  • J-D

    It’s true that governments enforce laws. Is it your position that (because the enforcement of laws restricts people’s liberty) there should be no enforcement of laws? or what?

  • J-D

    Do you think that refusing jobs to atheists is something that people have a _right_ to do? Do you think that there is a _right_ to discriminate against atheists? What makes you think that? Or are you talking about some other right being violated?

  • Adam Acuo

    Apologies for the delay in responding – I’ve been busy with life ;)

    It seems to me, and I say this respectfully, that you have a peculiar understanding of ‘rights’ as defined both in our constitution and as are typically understood. A ‘right’ under our constitution is something that you are born with by virtue of your nature as a human being, and over which the government has no (or very limited) authority. It isn’t something that you are owed – but something that you possess by virtue of being human. I have rights and you have rights. You have the right to put up a big billboard telling all Xians that their religion is a lie – even though they would find that to be deeply offensive. They have the right to not buy your products or services if you’re an asshole (or for any other reason). The ruling respects the rights of Christians (or of anybody else) to do with their property what they will. The Court has ruled that the government has no authority here – that it is a violation of their rights – and that’s the end of the story. What you want is for these people not to have these rights, for the government to intrude upon them, and to give you what you want. Certainly you can find countries with constitutions and governments that don’t respect individual rights – fortunately in this case, for a change, we live in a country that does respect our rights.

    You don’t want to control anybody’s rights – but you want a secular society. You can have a secular society by debating things on this forum and by engaging in the competition for ideas. What you want is to have the government enforce secularism on those that don’t accept it – so that you can get your way without having to get into the messy (and long term!) business of ideas.

    Of course whenever the discussion about rights rears its head – people who are in fact ‘anti-rights’ jump up and down and point to the travesty that was the Jim Crow south. The Jim Crow south was the result of LAWS – by governments – to institutionalize racism – that continued to linger as a result of the practice of slavery – which was again enforced by the government – and that persisted with government support even after the emancipation declaration. The laws to end this practice in the civil rights code were geared toward balancing the field in a wrong that was inflicted by the government itself – that violated one of the most fundamental rights that we are all born with. The fact of the matter is that your position is closer to the position of those that supported the Jim Crow laws than it is to those that opposed them.

    I still believe in private property and in the rule of law, and I hold to the knowledge that all men are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights – including life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If your employer doesn’t want to hire you because you are an atheist – I simply cannot fathom what right you have against this other person that gives you the authority to use the power of the state to bend them to your will… what power is this that you wish to have and why should you have it?

    The power that you do have is the right to protest against them, to inform others of their unjust actions, to assemble others together to boycott and to take whatever other non-violent actions that you wish to take. That’s what we did in the sixties. It seems that today’s kids just don’t have the appetite for rights-respecting activism and would rather give up their rights than fight for them.

  • Adam Acuo

    Sure – if Joe’s Sleaze shop doesn’t hire you because the owner has the right to be an intolerant asshole – we can either have the government threaten to put him in jail unless he hires you or we’re on the way to indentured servitude. Ironically, the indentured servant in this case would be Joe.

  • Adam Acuo

    I think that people have the right to their own opinions and to make their own judgements. If this means that some idiot doesn’t want to hire an atheist – then so be it. Practically speaking – he’d find a way to not hire you or to make your life hell anyway. Fundamentally speaking – if he doesn’t have the right not to hire you – then you (or the government on your behalf) must be compelling him to hire you through the use of force (ie – we’ll fine you, or jail you, or put you out of business) – and I find that a greater evil. It violates one’s freedom of thought, religion and property. Frankly – the cost of forcing this idiot to hire you is too high.

  • Adam Acuo

    It’s the best way because it respects everybody’s rights equally.

  • Adam Acuo

    With some minor exceptions, yes, I am making that point.

  • Azkyroth

    Does society have no right to set fair and impartial qualifications for the use of its collective property, the social and physical infrastructure which makes business possible?

  • Azkyroth

    I’m going to take a wild guess that you’re white, cis, straight, and your folks are paying your rent, so you figure you can afford to ignore the people who would actually be affected by the horrifically regressive proposal you’re making.

  • Azkyroth

    How does it respect anyone’s rights?

  • GCT

    The ruling respects the rights of Christians (or of anybody else) to do with their property what they will.

    No, that is straight up incorrect. The ruling allows Xians to impose their morality on others in violation of those others’ rights. Health care is not the property of the employer.

    What you want is for these people not to have these rights, for the government to intrude upon them, and to give you what you want.

    This is back-asswards. For some reason, the court decided that they could impose their “rights” in such a way that it takes away the rights of others. I’m not looking to intrude upon them, I’m looking to keep them from intruding upon women.

    You don’t want to control anybody’s rights – but you want a secular society.

    Um…yeah. A secular society is the only way to ensure that we allow the most freedom.

    What you want is to have the government enforce secularism on those that don’t accept it – so that you can get your way without having to get into the messy (and long term!) business of ideas.

    What the hell are you on about? Enforce secularism? I suppose you could put it that way, but what we’re really talking about here is that enforcing secularism means not granting special rights to certain people. That’s hardly “enforcing” something that denies rights. What’s really going on is that some people want special rights and those should be denied in a secular society. Then, when they don’t get their special rights, they cry and complain that their rights are taken away. No, that is not the government taking away your rights, it’s the government being fair and giving everyone equal protection. In this case, the government made a bad ruling that essentially says that religious people have the right to affect the rights of other people so long as they believe they should have those rights. That’s not secularism and it’s not freedom.

    Of course whenever the discussion about rights rears its head – people who are in fact ‘anti-rights’ jump up and down and point to the travesty that was the Jim Crow south.

    Wait…what? Are you honestly contending that people who are anti-rights are the ones pointing out that allowing others to discriminate while serving the public needs is a bad idea?

    The Jim Crow south was the result of LAWS – by governments – to institutionalize racism – that continued to linger as a result of the practice of slavery – which was again enforced by the government – and that persisted with government support even after the emancipation declaration. The laws to end this practice in the civil rights code were geared toward balancing the field in a wrong that was inflicted by the government itself – that violated one of the most fundamental rights that we are all born with.

    Ugh. Yes, the government was complicit, because the people in power didn’t respect the rights of all the citizens, but privileged certain people’s rights above other people (just like you are advocating). But, it was also the government that fixed the problem (something you admit, but still blame the government for). If the government had stayed out of it, however, do you honestly think that everything would have been fine? The government was simply codifying “protections” that the people themselves wanted to enact and were enacting anyway in order to not give up their racism. Even after Jim Crow laws were ended by the government, many people still barred blacks from their establishments in violation of the new laws. This fantasy that the government came in and forced people to be racist is simply that, a fantasy.

    The fact of the matter is that your position is closer to the position of those that supported the Jim Crow laws than it is to those that opposed them.

    That’s a steaming load of bullshit, and you know it.

    I still believe in private property and in the rule of law…

    Except you’re claiming that it’s just fine for a bunch of religious people to tell me what I can and cannot get as part of my health insurance package, which is part of my compensation. IOW, it is not their property.

    If your employer doesn’t want to hire you because you are an atheist – I simply cannot fathom what right you have against this other person that gives you the authority to use the power of the state to bend them to your will… what power is this that you wish to have and why should you have it?

    I have the right not to be discriminated against. How you can honestly claim that I’m the one closer to Jim Crow is beyond me since you just laid out the foundations for people to enact their own Jim Crow laws.

    The power that you do have is the right to protest against them, to inform others of their unjust actions, to assemble others together to boycott and to take whatever other non-violent actions that you wish to take. That’s what we did in the sixties. It seems that today’s kids just don’t have the appetite for rights-respecting activism and would rather give up their rights than fight for them.

    What, we should go back and protest every single thing over and over and over again because we aren’t capable of learning our lessons? This is simply asinine. And, I’ll note your ageist remark as well.

    If I have a business that serves the public, I don’t have the right to refuse business to people on discriminatory bases that are enshrined in the law (skin color, sex, age, etc). What you’re claiming is that I should have that right (Jim Crow rears it’s ugly head again) and that we should have to protest against people every time they pull that shit. Well, guess what – those protests have already been done and the matter has been settled, and we, as a society, have deemed that you don’t have the right to discriminate on those bases. You want to restore those special privileges and enshrine them as rights for some odd reason. It doesn’t make sense.

    But, really you’re advocating we go a step further and claim that employers have the right to dictate what their employees can and cannot do. That’s even worse.

  • GCT

    I fail to see how not allowing business owners to engage in discrimination turns them into indentured servants – people who sell themselves into slavery for a period of time. I highly doubt that you were part of the 60′s movements.

  • GCT

    I think that people have the right to their own opinions and to make their own judgements. If this means that some idiot doesn’t want to hire an atheist – then so be it.

    Yes, people have a right to their own opinions and judgments, but you’re equivocating those rights with the right to take actions based on those opinions and judgments.

  • J-D

    If you think that people have a right to refuse a job to an atheist (solely for being an atheist), what makes you think that is a _right_? And if you don’t think it’s a right, why won’t you say so plainly?

    It’s not true to say an idiot who wants to avoid hiring atheists will also have the power to make a misery of the lives of any atheists who are employed. That may be true if you’re thinking of a one-boss organisation. But in a large organisation with a complex structure, there could easily be a recruitment or personnel manager who would have the power to spoil people’s chances of being hired but would not have the same decisive power over employees once they have been hired. So that branch of your argument is flawed.

  • J-D

    What are those minor exceptions? why would you except them? or what makes you think they’re ‘minor’?

    And, subject to those minor exceptions (whatever they are), why do you think it’s a good general principle that the government shouldn’t make laws affecting how people use their property? If the government can’t make laws that affect how people use their property, what kind of laws do you think the government would still be able to make?

  • Science Avenger

    Is English your 2nd language? 3rd? I ask because you don’t seem to understand what the words you are using mean, ie, forcing a business owner to hire someone he doesn’t want to is not REMOTELY indentured servitude. You are just slinging words around in a “those who call others racists are the real racists” intellectually dishonest manner.

  • Science Avenger

    if he doesn’t have the right not to hire you – then you (or the government on your behalf) must be compelling him to hire you through the use of force…violat[ing] one’s freedom of thought…

    More word abuse. Please explain how making him hire someone he doesn’t want to hire violates his freedom of thought. He’s still free to think any damn thing he pleases.

  • Science Avenger

    If this means that some idiot doesn’t want to hire an atheist – then so be it. Practically speaking – he’d find a way to not hire you or to make your life hell anyway.

    Ah yes, the same “laws don’t matter” dodge that gun advocates use when they fight tooth and nail to prevent those supposedly ineffective laws. Funny thing that, don’t you think?

  • Science Avenger

    With some minor exceptions, yes, I am making that point [that governments should make no laws that have any effect on how people use their property]

    You talk about people and societies as if they are theoretical constructs within which the effects of various positions must be reasoned out, ignoring the long and rich history that served as the experiments showing how fucking stupid the positions you are taking are.

  • J-D

    Laws can — and do — impose _civil_ penalties without imposing criminal penalties.

    If big corporations find themselves having to pay big compensation payouts to people who have been refused jobs because a few corporate hiring managers have been acting in a bigoted way, then the big corporations are going to pull all their hiring managers into line, or find new ones. That won’t turn the big corporations into indentured servants, and it won’t turn their hiring managers into indentured servants either.


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