I’m reading a bunch of stuff so that I can think about a bunch of stuff before writing a bunch of stuff.
Here’s what I’ve been reading today about the Hobby Lobby ruling by the Supreme Court, from Kimberly Winston, Sahil Kapur, Kalli Joy Gray, Dave Lartigue, Martin Longman, Maya Dusenberg, Mark Silk, Michelle Krabill, Miranda Blue, Chauncey DeVega and many others.
Kimberly Winston, “The ‘Splainer: RFRA and the Hobby Lobby Case”
That’s the question at the heart of this case: Can a corporation be said to have religious practices? In this ruling the judges said yes, corporations, which are composed of people, can be said to have religious practices and sometimes those practices are worth protecting under RFRA.
… It’s a big deal. The win by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga means the courts might see a lot more challenges from for-profit corporations to laws they feel conflict with their owners’ religious beliefs. But the court has also carefully said that its ruling in this case applies only to contraception coverage, so religious employers should not see this as an invitation to challenge the Affordable Care Act on vaccines and blood transfusions, both of which some religious people object to.
Ginsburg noted that the case, brought by the Christian owners of the retail chain Hobby Lobby, marks the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has exempted a for-profit corporation from a generally applicable law on religious grounds.
“The absence of such precedent is just what one would expect, for the exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial legal entities,” she wrote. She concluded: “Indeed, approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.’ The Court, I fear has ventured into a minefield.”
Does it matter whether their “religious beliefs” are in any way, like, scientifically accurate? Nope, writes Alito, because “it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.” They have a First Amendment right to believe whatever they want, even if it is mistaken or insubstantial, and that First Amendment right is far more important than, say, a woman and her doctor to choose the best method of contraception for her.
Dave Lartigue, “Hobby Lobby”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What if the boss is a Jehovah’s Witness? Are they exempt from paying for blood transfusions? Scientologist and psychiatrists? Christian Scientist and any health care at all?” You’re right to wonder that, but don’t worry; the ruling specifically says those don’t apply here. Why? I don’t know, but I can guess. For one thing, religious beliefs are varied, and there are differing opinions on what is and isn’t permitted, but one thing they all seem to agree on is that women are filthy whores whose slut-holes must be vigilantly monitored by their male superiors. Also, and this is a sort of by-the-by, but I guess the Supreme Court can now decide which religion is true and right (conservative Christianity) and which are bullshit nonsense we don’t have to acknowledge (all others). No big deal there.
Martin Longman, “Alito Says That Taking Birth Control Is Immoral”
Maybe that’s just sloppy writing, but he wrote what he wrote. It’s certainly a core feature of religious freedom that the government does not make decisions about whether or not Joseph Smith was a con-artist or Jesus really walked on water or the moon is made of cheese that is occasionally grated onto the plates of devout Pastafarians. But, in this opinion, Alito is conceding the point that taking birth control is immoral and then saying that the Court shouldn’t make a determination like that.
Kinda reminds you of Bush v. Gore, doesn’t it? Alito takes pains to make it clear that his opinion shouldn’t be considered precedent for anything except the narrowly specific issue at hand: whether contraceptives that some people consider abortifacients can be excluded from health plans.
I think it’s important to recognize what Alito is saying here. Basically, he’s making the case that abortion is unique as a religious issue. If you object to anything else on a religious basis, you’re probably out of luck. But if you object to abortion on religious grounds, you will be given every possible consideration. Even if your objection is only related to abortion in the most tenuous imaginable way — as it is here, where IUDs are considered to be abortifacients for highly idiosyncratic doctrinal reasons — it will be treated with the utmost deference.
This is not a ruling that upholds religious liberty. It is a ruling that specifically enshrines abortion as the most important religious liberty in America.
All of which just goes to show how dangerous this ruling is – and not just for the millions of people in this country who rely on contraception, think it’s generally a pretty useful thing instead of the root of all evil, and reject the idea that it’s any of their bosses’ goddamn business. In their decision, the court said the ruling applies narrowly to the birth control mandate, but it’s unclear why the principle would stop there. As the dissenting Justices noted, the decision allows companies to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” “Religious freedom” could become a free pass to get out of providing coverage for anything–from blood transfusions to vaccines – that their beliefs, no matter how erroneous, told them to.
In order to understand the decision, you have to know that it is based on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which tells the court that in order to overrule a claim of religious free exercise (against federal law), 1) the state must have a compelling interest to do so; and 2) in doing so it employs the least restrictive means. In Hobby Lobby, the court assumed (without coming to an actual determination) that the state interest in providing the full range of contraceptive services was compelling, but … found that the Obamacare mandate was not the least restrictive means of fulfilling that interest.
… Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a separate concurrence in which he took the position that there is indeed a compelling state interest in providing contraceptive services: “There are many medical conditions for which pregnancy is contraindicated. It is important to confirm that a premise of the Court’s opinion is its assumption that the HHS regulation here at issue furthers a legitimate and compelling interest in the health of female employees.”
Republican opposition to contraception access has been largely reflexive in recent years: “Obamacare” makes birth control available to Americans without a copay; “Obamacare” is evil; ergo the right must fight against contraception access.
The trouble is, the American mainstream and GOP policymakers really aren’t on the same page. The latest national polling reinforces the fact that most of the country wanted today’s ruling to go the other way.
Michelle Krabill, “Birth Control, the Supremes and You”
Even though Hobby Lobby has won this battle, it may lead to them losing the broader war. Don’t get me wrong; I think it is only a small step in that direction. In other words, someday when we look back at this decision, we may see that it directly contributed to America eventually adopting a single payer system.
Alison Griswold, “How Many People Could the Hobby Lobby Ruling Affect?”
The IRS defines a closely held corporation as one that, in general, has “more than 50 percent of the value of its outstanding stock owned (directly or indirectly) by five or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of the tax year” and “is not a personal service corporation.” These corporations are thought to make up around 90 percent of companies in the U.S. …
According to a 2009 research paper from NYU Stern School of Business, these corporations account for 52 percent of private employment and 51 percent of private-sector output in the country. … Fifty-two percent of today’s private sector employees comes out to approximately 60.4 million people. …
Anti-gay activists are rejoicing at the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby today, in part because they are hopeful that the decision will pave the way for one of their own policy goals: to use the religious liberty argument to push for broad exemptions for corporations from nondiscrimination laws.
• “Because of course what this whole thing was about was women who just wanted to have consequence-free sex on the dime of hard-working Christians.”
• “They seem to think of contraception as some kind of exotic sexual item, like a butt plug or handcuffs, something you only incorporate once in awhile instead of every single time.”