Making them complicit

And of course just as everyone predicted, Hobby Lobby is only the beginning. The camel is halfway into the tent already, and there’s a whole long line of camels streaming toward the tent even now.

In a short, unsigned opinion, the court said that Wheaton College in Illinois, at least temporarily, does not have to comply even with compromise provisions in the law that the college says still violate its religious beliefs.

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Bishops and justices working together

More brilliant commentary on Hobby Lobby, this from Leslie Griffin, who co-blogs with Marci Hamilton, under the banner

Advocating for religious liberty, women’s rights and children’s rights

By “religious liberty” they don’t mean what The Catholic Five mean.

Today, in an ironic and shrewd decision, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, five male Catholic Supreme Court Justices aided the project of the U.S. Catholic bishops to impose their opposition to all contraception on all American women. The opinion was ironic: four Justices who previously ruled that Congress lacked the authority to pass the Affordable Care Act required the government to pay for contraceptive services. The decision was shrewd; the Justices promoted contraceptive restrictions in two cases where the plaintiffs (the Green and Hahn families) were not Catholic. Today’s plaintiffs were morally opposed to only 4 of 20 FDA-approved methods of contraception. However, Catholic and other commercial enterprises will now be able, as Justice Ginsburg pointed out in dissent, “to exclude from their group health plans all forms of contraceptives.” With the Court’s help, the bishops moved a step closer to their goal of restricting contraceptive freedom for everyone.

A big step. The bishops must have been wetting themselves with joy all week.

The bishops’ fingerprints are all over the opinion in two ways. First, the taxpayers have to pay for contraceptive insurance for employees of religious for-profits, the Court ruled, because the government had previously decided to accommodate the religious non-profits who objected to contraception. The vociferous lobbying of the American Catholic bishops was the cause of that accommodation.

Second, the Court’s analysis of the “substantial burden” prong of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is riddled with arguments from Roman Catholic moral theology about cooperation with evil. The bishops could have written that part of the opinion themselves.

That’s all the more disgusting because the bishops are evil. The bishops want women to die rather than have a lifesaving abortion to complete a miscarriage. The bishops order Catholic hospitals and healthcare networks not to provide such abortions. They order their subordinates to commit murder by negligence. They’re evil and they claim to be better than the rest of us.

Justice Alito provided an unconvincing theological response to Ginsburg’s persuasive attenuation argument. The Greens’ and Hahns’ belief that the four contraceptives cause abortion, he wrote, “implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is wrong 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.” It is not for the Court, he concluded, to determine whether a burden is substantial or insubstantial; that is the moral judgment of the plaintiffs.

Interpreting statutory language like “substantial burden” is precisely what the Court is supposed to do. Instead, Alito invoked a classical Catholic analysis of the principle of cooperation with evil, even (in this case without Catholic plaintiffs) footnoting two books about Roman Catholic moral theology written in 1935 and 1949 by Jesuit priests Henry Davis and Thomas Higgins.

Cooperation with evil is it? Like…Nazism? Sadistic prisons for children of single mothers in Ireland? Sadistic prisons for children of First Nations parents in Canada?

No no no, not that kind of evil. Using contraception kind of evil.

The bishops couldn’t have done any better if they had written that part of the opinion themselves. Their anti-contraceptive theology started in 1930 and has never been updated to reflect American Catholic family and work life. Now, with the Court’s help, Catholic employers will be free to impose their morality on Catholic and non-Catholic employees alike because Justice Alito doesn’t want them to cooperate with the evil of reproductive liberty, which is supposed to be protected by the Constitution.

I’d better stop before I grind all my teeth to powder.

Without meaningful consideration of the impact on their employees

Marci Hamilton on the Hobby Lobby ruling.

It is simply a fact that five male Catholic Supreme Court Justices have now transformed what is already a bad law into a truly dangerous one, all for the apparent purpose of undermining women’s access to contraception. Whatever the legal reasoning, the optics are very bad on this one, and whether intentionally or not, they stoke the perception that the Justices are in league with the Catholic bishops in the latter’s attempt to turn the clock back on not just Roe v. Wade but also Griswold v. Connecticut, as Leslie Griffin argues here. 

Oh surely not. Just because they’re all Catholic and…


This is, in fact, a sly opinion that not only delivers free exercise rights to for-profit corporations without meaningful consideration of the impact on their employees but also renders an interpretation of key elements of RFRA that render it a mightier sword than it ever was. RFRA’s ugly underbelly and its pretense to reflect the First Amendment are now in full view. 

Emphasis added. [Read more…]

The theocrats get started

More nostalgia – May 21 2012 when the bishops announced their lawsuit against the administration. Catholic News Service was there, slavering.

The Archdiocese of New York, headed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., headed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the University of Notre Dame, and 40 other Catholic dioceses and organizations around the country announced on Monday that they are suing the Obama administration for violating their freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

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USCCB triumphans

Let’s have a blast from the past: Katha Pollitt in the Nation in December 2011.

Who matters more to President Obama, 271 Catholic bishops or millions upon millions of sexually active Catholic women who have used (or—gasp!—are using right this minute) birth control methods those bishops disapprove of? Who does Obama think the church is—the people in the pews or the men with the money and power? We’re about to find out. Some day soon the president will decide whether to yield to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which has lobbied fiercely for a broad religious exemption from new federal regulations requiring health insurance to cover birth control with no co-pays—one of the more popular elements of Obama’s healthcare reform package. Talk about the 1 percent and the 99 percent.

There’s already an exemption in the law for religious employers, defined as those whose primary purpose is the “inculcation of religious values,” who mostly serve and employ people of that faith, and qualify as churches or “integrated auxiliaries” under the tax code. That would be, say, a diocesan office or a convent or, for that matter, a synagogue, mosque or megachurch. Even this exemption seems unfair to me—why should a bishop be able to deprive his secretary and housekeeper of medical services? The exemption is based on the notion that people shouldn’t have to violate their religious consciences, but what makes his conscience more valuable than theirs? I would argue that it is less valuable—he’s not the one who risks getting pregnant.

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How did we get here?

So now I’m trying to work my way back through the history of RFRA, to try to figure out why it had so much support, from the left as well as the right.

The ACLU has a relevant article on its site…but it has no date, which is very unhelpful. But for what it’s worth…

Religious freedom is a fundamental human right that is guaranteed by the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment clauses.[1] It encompasses not only the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs. These rights are fundamental and should not be subject to political process and majority votes. Thus the ACLU, along with almost every religious and civil rights group in America that has taken a position on the subject, rejects the Supreme Court’s notorious decision of Employment Division v. Smith. In Smith, Justice Scalia wrote that the accommodation of religion should be left “to the political process” where government officials and political majorities may abridge the rights of free exercise of religion.[2]

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One law

From the White House press briefing yesterday; the first question was about the Hobby Lobby ruling.

The Supreme Court ruled today that some bosses can now withhold contraceptive care from their employees’ health coverage based on their own religious views that their employees may not even share.  President Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves rather than their bosses deciding for them.

Today’s decision jeopardizes the health of women who are employed by these companies.  As millions of women know firsthand, contraception is often vital to their health and wellbeing.  That’s why the Affordable Care Act ensures that women have coverage for contraceptive care, along with other preventative care like vaccines and cancer screenings.

We will work with Congress to make sure that any women affected by this decision will still have the same coverage of vital health services as everyone else.

President Obama believes strongly in the freedom of religion.  That’s why we’ve taken steps to ensure that no religious institution will have to pay or provide for contraceptive coverage.  We’ve also made accommodations for non-profit religious organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds.  But we believe that the owners of for-profit companies should not be allowed to assert their personal religious views to deny their employees federally mandated benefits.

Now, we’ll of course respect the Supreme Court ruling and we’ll continue to look for ways to improve Americans’ health by helping women have more, not less, say over the personal health decisions that affect them and their families.

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Congress should narrow RFRA

The Washington Post gives its (as it were corporate) view of the Hobby Lobby ruling and what it implies.

When business owners enter the public marketplace, they should expect to follow laws with which they might disagree, on religious or other grounds. This is particularly true when they form corporations, to which the government offers unique benefits unavailable to individuals.

The Supreme Court weakened that principle Monday. Congress should revitalize it.

That’s one good way of putting it. The public marketplace, like most public places, is fundamentally secular. [Read more…]

Guest post: It’s not about “corporate personhood”

Originally a comment by the philosophical primate on The American Humanist Association comments.

I wish people would quit talking about this case in terms of “corporate rights” and “corporate personhood” and the like. That’s a red herring. The decision prominently mentions the legal relevance of the fact that Hobby Lobby (and the other plaintiffs) are “closely held corporations” — that is, owned by a small number of shareholders rather than being publicly traded companies — and the decision was rationalized (I won’t dignify it with the word “justified”) on the basis that it protects the religious liberty OF THOSE INDIVIDUAL PERSONS. Yes, those persons own a company, but the rights at stake were the rights of the owners as persons, and religious rights were not in any way imputed to any corporation. [Read more…]

The roots of Hobby Lobby

Soraya has commentary at Time magazine.

In the practice of many religions, girls’ and women’s relationship to the divine are mediated, in strictly binary terms, by men: their speech, their ways of being and their judgments. Women’s behavior, especially sexual, is policed in ways that consolidate male power. It is impossible to be, in this particular case, a conservative Christian, without accepting and perpetuating the subordination of women to male rule. It is also blatant in “official” Catholicism, Mormonism, Evangelical Protestantism, Orthodox Judaism and Islam.

The fundamental psychology of these ideas, of religious male governance, does not exist in a silo, isolated from family structures, public life or political organization. [Read more…]