If there is only one thing Americans can be sure of, it is that there are always a substantial number of Americans who think they are above the law whether they are the uberwealthy, Republicans in Congress, or religious conservatives. The wealthy, like Willard Romney has connections in the judicial system and corrupt surrogates keeping him above the law, and congressional Republicans violate their oath of office with impunity because they will not investigate their own malfeasance, and “Christian” conservatives do not acknowledge any law that does not originate from their book of ancient mythology. Two events this past week elucidate how Christian conservatives intend to abrogate a federal law and other Americans’ religious freedom by using their legal instruments (corporations) to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. As expected, conservative Christian business owners are appealing to other conservative Christians on the Supreme Court to grant them religious immunity from adhering to a federal law.
First, retail outlet Hobby Lobby appealed to the conservative Supreme Court to grant them Constitutional protection to impose their religion on their employees because two federal circuit courts ruled that religious corporate owners are forbidden from forcing phony bible rules on their workers. According to Hobby Lobby’s lawyers, “As the federal government embarks on an unprecedented foray into health care replete with multiple overlapping mandates, few issues are more important than the extent to which the government must recognize and accommodate the religious exercise of those it regulates.” In Hobby Lobby’s owner’s estimation, the federal government must acknowledge, and assist, conservative Christians’ religious right to impose their beliefs on their employees.
The issue at hand is the mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers providing prescription coverage in health plans to include contraception the same as they do antibiotics, blood pressure medicine, and boner pills like Viagra. Hobby Lobby’s owners, like many conservative Christians, have determined that biological science and their bible are erroneous because they contradict religious extremists’ assertion that a fertilized egg is a person worthy of 14th amendment rights granted in the U.S. Constitution. Their contention is that a corporation has the same religious freedom as individual Americans giving them the right to force their employees to adhere to their absurd interpretation of the Christian bible.
There have been three lawsuits in three different Circuit Courts by corporations claiming religious freedom to disregard the contraception mandate in the health law, and for the second time the “religious corporations” were handed a defeat based on common sense and legal precedent. That is where Hobby Lobby took it upon their religious self to pray for relief from the High Court’s 5 conservative Christians to rule that the mandate violates the corporation’s religious freedom to withhold contraception from health plans. However, in the 6th Circuit this week, a panel of federal judges handed down the second ruling rejecting the “religious corporate” argument with a pervasive assertion that “it is not possible for a for-profit corporation with secular purposes to ‘exercise’ religion in a way protected by the Constitution or federal statutes.”
There is legal precedent to back up the 6th Circuit’s ruling in the 1990 Supreme Court ruling, Oregon v. Smith, which held that even if it burdened religious practices, a generally applicable policy does not violate the First Amendment unless it specifically targeted a religious group or practice. Using that ruling, the conservative Christian corporation’s argument that the contraceptive requirements violate the free exercise of religion clause is non-existent, but the court did not stop there.
Writing for the court, a George W. Bush appointee said, “When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity. Granting an exemption from statutory schemes to an employer operates to impost the employer’s religious faith on the employees.” Simply put, conservative Christians are forbidden from forcing their employees to adhere to their religious beliefs. However, the Court took the argument to the so-called “religious corporation” and told them they cannot have it both ways as a corporation and an individual.
The ruling said, “by incorporating his business, (plaintiff) voluntarily forfeited his rights to bring individual actions for alleged corporate injuries in exchange for the liability and financial protections otherwise afforded him by utilization of the corporate form. Adoption of his argument that he should not be liable individually for corporate debts and wrongs, but still should be allowed to challenge, as an individual, duties and restrictions placed upon the corporation would undermine completely the principles upon which our nation’s corporate laws and structures are based. We are not inclined to so ignore law, precedent, and reason.” Translation; the individual who incorporated their business cannot have it both ways and claim they are, as individuals, separate from the corporation for tax and liability purposes, but not separate for religious purposes to impose their beliefs on their employees.
When Hobby Lobby sued the federal government for an exemption from the contraception mandate, the 10th Circuit did ignore established law, precedent, and reason and ruled that President Obama “imposed a religious burden” on a for-profit secular corporation and hurt the Hobby Lobby corporation’s religious sensibilities. Now, Hobby Lobby is begging the 5 conservative Christians on the High Court to rule that for-profit secular corporations formed to avoid taxes and liabilities are above the law because a corporations’ religious freedom to “impost the employer’s religious faith on the employees” is protected under the First Amendment.
This waste of the American judicial system’s time and resources is not about contraception, the Affordable Care Act, President Obama, or whether or not a legal instrument’s (corporation) religious freedom is being abridged. It is about conservative Christians imposing their will on the people and the government and it is high time that Americans come to grips with the reality that there is a decade’s-old war to transform this country into a theocracy. It is also about evangelical malcontents’ war on women to put them in their biblical place under subjugation to men according to the Christian bible that is being waged in earnest in Republican-controlled states.
The idea that a corporation has religious freedom, or faith-based right, over and above its employees is absurd and an outrage in and of itself, but that it is being appealed to the Supreme Court for adjudication portends this nation is already in the grips of religious extremists and one High Court ruling away from a government sanctioned 21st century crusade and inquisition. This Supreme Court has already granted personhood rights to corporations to buy elections, and there is little doubt that in a fit of religious fervor the 5 conservatives on the Court will give them religious rights to impose their beliefs on the American people that Dominionists have planned for the past 20 years.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.