Immediately after the SCOTUS ruling on Hobby Lobby other religious organizations decided to see what laws they could get exempt from on religious grounds. First up is non-discrimination laws:
Fourteen prominent faith leaders — including some of President Obama’s closest advisers — want the White House to create a religious exemption from his planned executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against gays and lesbians in hiring.
A letter to the White House, sent Tuesday and made public Wednesday, includes the signatures of Michael Wear, faith director for Obama’s 2012 campaign; Stephen Schneck, a leader of Catholic outreach in 2012; and Florida megapastor Joel Hunter, whom Obama has described as a close spiritual counselor.
Their letter was as full of irony as it was bad arguments.
“While the nation has undergone incredible social and legal change over the last decade, we still live in a nation with different beliefs about sexuality. We must find a way to respect diversity of opinion,” said the letter.
We must respect diversity…by allowing religious people to discriminate in hiring. I just…what? Their argument is that diversity of opinion must be respected, with factually errant opinions that seek to discriminate are given equal deference as opinions informed by the facts which call for equality…while diversity of people is kicked to the wayside. I’m sorry (not really), but treating wrong opinions with respect takes a back seat to making sure all people are treated equally under the law.
We respect diversity of opinion with freedom of speech, guaranteeing all opinions a safe place in the marketplace of ideas, not by allowing ill-formed or discriminatory opinions a place in our laws simply because people hold them.
“An executive order that does not include a religious exemption will significantly and substantively hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped to serve in common purpose with the federal government.,” it said. “When the capacity of religious organizations is limited, the common good suffers.”
What work that serves the interest of the federal government could possibly be hampered by hiring gay people? The letter contains no specifics, just this naked assertion. The only way hiring gay people could hamper the work of religious organizations is probably in opposing gay rights and evangelism which:
1. Doesn’t serve any interest of the federal government.
2. Gay people probably aren’t lining up to work for such organizations.
But as for other work religious groups do like charity and what not, gay people can pack food into crates just as well as straight people.
Without specifics as for how abiding by non-discrimination laws would cause the common good to suffer, allowing religious groups to discriminate against gay people makes no more sense (and is no more moral) than allowing them to discriminate against black people or women in their hiring. If discrimination is bad, then it’s bad when religious people do it too.
The 14 signers of the letter include leaders of some of the country’s largest faith-based charities, notably Catholic Charities USA and World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.
The signers said they supported the executive order — “we have great appreciation for your commitment to human dignity and justice, and we share those values with you” — but said an exemption is essential.
We support your commitment to human dignity and justice, but people should be allowed to ignore the laws that mandate those values if they are religious. Why? If you support laws that maintain human dignity and justice, why do you think people who would undermine those values should get an exception? You’re literally saying these laws are good…except for religious people.
“Americans have always disagreed on important issues, but our ability to live with our diversity is part of what makes this country great, and it continues to be essential even in this 21st-century,” the letter said. “Without a robust religious exemption . . . this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom.”
How will keeping people from discriminating affect the common good, national unity, and religious freedom? Freedom doesn’t mean getting to ignore the laws, for fuck’s sake. Making sure people (including religious people) couldn’t discriminate in hiring based on gender, race, religious affiliation, and more actually contributed greatly to the common good and national unity. If those things upset religious people well, too bad. We’re a nation of not just religious people (that whole diversity thing you guys mentioned). I don’t see why extending those same protections to another subset of Americans would have the opposite effect.
And what’s more, you can’t say that diversity is what makes the country great and follow it up with a call for allowing companies to discriminate. We live with diversity by making sure everybody is treated equally, not by allowing certain “special” members of the population to treat a particular minority with contempt.
Schneck, who runs the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University, said he did not see any contradiction between supporting gay equality and the exemption.
“I think these things fit together pretty well,” he said. “Of all federal contracts, these [faith-based ones] are such a miniscule portion. The recognition of the divisive nature of these kinds of efforts [such as the executive order], it just makes perfect sense for the White House to give the faith-based groups time to work this out. It’s not that long ago when Obama himself was where these faith-based groups are now.”
Faith-based groups need the same amount of time to incorporate new laws as everybody else. What’s more, discrimination doesn’t become acceptable just because it’s only happening in a few instances. Can you imagine if non-discrimination laws against black people had read “You can’t discriminate in hiring based on race, except for a few organizations – not because their arguments for doing so are good, but because their arguments are religious.”
As for the Hobby Lobby decision itself, it has already been expanded to cover all contraceptives, not just the ones for which Hobby Lobby requested an exception. However, before the SCOTUS just broadened it even more before going into recess it broadened the ruling even more:
The justices granted an emergency injunction saying Wheaton College, an evangelical institution, need not fill out the government Form 700 to opt out of the contraceptive coverage requirement and can simply inform the Obama administration of its intentions while its lawsuit is pending in the courts. Wheaton — and 121 other religious nonprofits — say the form violates their religious freedom because it makes them complicit in the sin of covering birth control.
This contradicts the ruling they handed down which prompted a scathing comment from Justice Sotomayor:
“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote. “After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates RFRA as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might … retreats from that position.”
At some point the SCOTUS is going to have to tell religious people they don’t get to ignore laws they don’t like. It will be interesting to see how they draw the line between which laws you can ignore if you’re religious and which ones you can’t. My guess is that it’ll stop right about when people want exceptions to laws that aren’t supported by Catholicism.