Next stop FFRF

The Freedom From Religion Foundation suggests repealing the god damn RFRA (the swear is mine).

Today, in a heated 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that for-profit corporations can exercise their so-called religious conscience in order to restrict employees’ access to contraceptives. The ruling in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., absurdly holds that the contraceptive coverage granted by the Affordable Care Act creates a “significant burden” on a corporation’s free exercise of religion.

How could this be? This Alice in Wonderland ruling is based not on the Constitution, but on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute. This statute was adopted by Congress and must be repealed by Congress.

The main justification for this decision is the Supreme Court’s holding that RFRA protects Hobby Lobby from the generally applicable rules of the Affordable Care Act.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s amicus brief by noted state-church attorney Marci A. Hamilton (joined by groups advocating for the rights of victims of religious abuse), was the only brief before the Supreme Court that argued that RFRA is unconstitutional. Our important brief points out that RFRA “accords religious believers extreme religious liberty rights that yield a political and fiscal windfall in violation of the clearest commands of the Establishment Clause.”

A public outcry is in order. FFRF needs your help to tell Congress that RFRA is a bad law that must be repealed.

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Now for American Atheists

The press release from Cranford.

“This is a disgrace and an indignity to Americans’ right to be protected from the abuses of other people’s religions,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “Shame on the Supreme Court, which has effectively told Americans that if you can come up with a religious excuse, you are above the law. This is an injustice of the highest order for separation of religion and government, for equality, and for the constitutional protections guaranteed to all Americans.”

“The Court has granted religious liberties to some corporations, claiming they have the same rights as citizens. What about the rights of the women, the workers? We fear the consequences of this decision on publicly traded corporations in the future,” said Managing Director Amanda Knief, a lawyer and public policy expert.

Click here to read the full ruling in PDF form.


Next stop, Americans United

Americans United for Separation of Church and State also has a press release.

The Supreme Court’s ruling allowing the owners of some secular, for-profit companies to deny their employees access to birth control is a blow to individual conscience and medical privacy rights, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“This decision is a double-edged disaster,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It conjures up fake religious freedom rights for corporations while being blind to the importance of birth control to America’s working women.”

Added Lynn, “The justices have set a dangerous precedent. While the Obama administration may arrange for the government to provide contraceptives, a future administration could easily take that away. In years to come, many women may find their access to birth control hanging by a thread.”

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the cases (Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius) on behalf of diverse faith communities, arguing that the owners of secular corporations are not entitled to a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “contraception mandate.” Hobby Lobby and Conestoga both cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), legislation signed into law in 1993, in their defense.

The AU brief noted that many people have different religious beliefs about contraception than their employers and explained that if the plaintiffs prevailed, “employees would find it more difficult to make personal decisions about healthcare and contraception in accordance with their own consciences.”

“We are a country of great religious diversity, and American workers must be able to make their own medical, family and reproductive decisions according to their own moral and religious values,” said Gregory M. Lipper, Americans United’s senior litigation counsel and a primary author of the brief. “The high court is out of step with the reality of American society.”

In addition to Lipper, the brief was authored by Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and Madison Fellow Caitlin E. O’Connell.

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First stop is CFI

CFI has a press release.

Center for Inquiry Warns Hobby Lobby Decision Will Prove Deeply Damaging to American Health Care

Secular advocacy group the Center for Inquiry decried the Supreme Court’s ruling today that the health and welfare of female employees should be subordinated to their employers’ religious beliefs, and warned that the impact of the decision will prove deeply damaging to Americans’ access to health care, well beyond the scope of contraception coverage.

In a split decision, and over a vigorous dissent authored by Justice Ginsburg, the Court held that privately owned for-profit businesses are entitled to exemptions from the Contraceptive Mandate of the Affordable Care Act if their owners claim a religious basis for opposing contraception. As a result, employers with religious objections can deny employees access to insurance covering prescription contraception without co-pay. The Supreme Court based its decision on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that a law that burdens a person’s religious beliefs must be justified by a compelling government interest. Today the Court made clear it does not view Americans’ access to medically necessary health care as a compelling government interest, and announced loud and clear that the religious preferences of employers take preference over the health needs of workers.

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Hobby Lobby – women lose, religions win

CNN reports:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that closely held companies cannot be required to pay to cover some types of contraceptives for their employees, ending its term with a narrow legal and political setback for a controversial part of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court’s conservatives essentially ruled that some for-profit corporations have religious rights.

As if corporations were people, with rights, which they’re not.

The issue before the justices was whether Obamacare could mandate contraception coverage specifically for certain businesses that object for religious reasons.

“This case isn’t that practically important, except for the employees and businesses involved. There just aren’t a huge number of those,” said Thomas Goldstein, publisher of and a Washington appellate attorney.

“But everyone can agree the social questions presented — about when people can follow their religious convictions, and when people are entitled to contraception care — are truly important,” he said.

Read the ruling (.PDF)

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You can have rights, provided you don’t annoy us

Oh lordy, not this again.

An opinion piece in Pink News saying “don’t be so damn flamboyant if you want equal rights.” There was a discussion on Alex’s Facebook page around the same oh so helpful suggestion.

Topher Gen in Pink News:

You’re not being bold, you’re not making a stance and you’re certainly not making a statement – at least not one that’s helping us gain the respect and equality we deserve.

Perhaps you think I’m being too serious, that Pride is just ‘fun’. Well, you know what? Equality is reached through hard work and dedication, not staggering around the streets in a drunken haze whilst dressed in drag. And Pride does a lot more damage to the LGBT community than people care to realise.

When children are mocked and bullied at school for their sexuality, what hateful remarks are they subjected to? When I was at school, it was remarks like “bums against the wall, boys” or moronic digs and questions from my adolescent piers about “If I liked to wear dresses or make-up” or they’d flick the wrist at me; I even got pushed around. What’s my point? These remarks, these calls that teenage homosexuals are bombarded and plagued with, are heavily incorporated into every Pride march and then plastered all over websites, magazines and the TV for the world to see. It’s a parade full of six-foot tall queens, cross-dressing middle-aged men – and guess what, I’m not stereotyping here. That’s what a lot of the members of the procession dress like. It’s little more than a counterproductive, drag-queen pageant these days than it is a political statement. Yet, people still say it’s harmless fun. Around 40 percent of homosexual teenagers suffer from depression and 30 percent of all teen suicides are due to issues related to their sexuality, most notably being subjected to bullying because of it – tell me now Pride’s just harmless fun?

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Anti-feminism conference is anti-feminist

MSNBC reports on the Men’s Rights conference held in Michigan yesterday.

“I call it the evil empire,” Erin Pizzey, the British founder of one of the first domestic violence shelters and a staunch anti-feminist, said Friday, borrowing Ronald Reagan’s description of the Soviet Union. “We need to go after them. We cannot allow this to continue. And if we don’t stop it, I don’t see a future for marriage, for love, or for anything.”

Yup. That totally makes sense. Feminism will mean the end for marriage, and love, and everything. Once it has done it’s work, there will be no future for anything. It will be like before the Big Bang. [Read more…]

Guest post on “Aaron Swartz – The Internet’s own boy”

Originally a comment by Harald Hanche-Olsen on The withdrawing room.

 I just finished watching Brian Knappenberger’s documentary on Aaron Swartz – The Internet’s own boy. Driven to suicide by overly aggressive prosecutors seeking to making an example of him for wanting to make knowledge available to everybody, Aaron was likely one of the brightest minds of his generation and a tragic loss to all. Have a look at Lawrence Lessig’s TED talk on The unstoppable walk to political reform to learn about just one important aspect of Aaron’s life.

The documentary is well worth watching. I believe it is screening in US movie theaters starting today. I got a copy because I backed the movie financially albeit very modestly. But at least if you are in the US, you can rent or buy the movie on vimeo. I should warn you that it is emotionally wrenching, but that is as it should be.

A retributive God who must punish sin

Valerie Tarico reports that Child Evangelism Fellowship is targeting Portland, Oregon this summer, but Portland is fighting back.

 Good News Clubs mix snacks, games, art projects and stories with upbeat moral lessons and the theology of blood sacrifice. In a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Child Evangelism Fellowship argued that they were entitled to operate in public schools because they are running a social and moral enrichment program akin to Scouting.

Much to the dismay of church-state watchdogs, a majority of the Court agreed, but to call Good News Clubs moral enrichment by secular standards or to liken it to Scouting, is a stretch. Despite evangelical influences in the Boy Scouts, scouting programs to a large degree emphasize virtues that are prized across both secular and religious wisdom traditions. Good News Clubs teach dark, divisive and potentially traumatic doctrines that are unique to fundamentalist forms of Christianity.

[Read more…]