An idea or suggestion that is wildly unreasonable, illogical, preposterous, idiotic, harebrained, and just dirt-stupid can be considered patently absurd. It is likely that if someone held up a piece of paper serving as a legal instrument and identified it as a person with 1st Amendment freedom of speech rights, most sentient beings would consider the concept absurd; unless they are conservative Supreme Court justices. The only thing more idiotic than ascribing personhood to a legal instrument is asserting it prays, worships, and warrants religious freedom protections; particularly when the corporation (legal instrument) will exercise its religious freedom to impose religion on its employees and abridge their 1st and 14th Amendment constitutional rights.
On Monday, the Supreme Court will announce its closely-watched and highly anticipated decision in Hobby Lobby et al v. Sibelius (United States), and depending on how conservatives on the court rule, Americans may witness the height of absurdity and corporate-mandated religion. They may also witness the end of their religious freedom, the end of constitutional anti-discrimination protections, and corporate religious tyranny with the High Court’s Constitutional blessing.
There are several ways the Court could rule to protect women, and all Americans, including summarily disabusing Hobby Lobby’s owners of the idea that their legal instrument’s religiosity is anything other than sheer madness. Or they can end Americans’ freedom from religious tyranny and usher in constitutionally-protected discrimination and put women, atheists, gays, and people of color at the mercy of anyone exercising their religious beliefs. It is worth considering how the High Court could rule to either protect all Americans from corporate religious tyranny, or establish the ultimate Christian conscience clause and eliminate over two centuries of religious freedom and equal rights under the law.
In what should be the most obvious, and frankly blunt, ruling, the High Court would inform Hobby Lobby, and all evangelicals, that exercise of religious freedom does not include imposing religion on other Americans. It is not now, and never has been, what religious liberty means, especially when the Greens’ freedom of religion means imposing their religion to harm other Americans. In fact, since religious freedom is being used as a tool to impose religion in various contexts around the country, including when businesses claim religious freedom gives them the right to discriminate against the LGBT community, spelling out what religious freedom really means will settle myriad issues. The Court must affirm the Constitutional principle that religious liberty is a shield; not a sword that allows evangelicals to impose their beliefs on others.
The most reasonable ruling for the Court is to tell Hobby Lobby’s owners the concept of a corporation as a legal entity exercising religious freedom is preposterous. The Court could also tell Hobby Lobby’s owners that they cannot enjoy tax breaks and special privileges associated with being a corporation separate from their personal situation, and then expect “personal” consideration as a corporation to impose their religious beliefs on the corporation’s employees. Or they can tell Hobby Lobby the religious entity that if it hates contraceptives, the corporation has religious freedom not to use them. In a sane ruling the Court will inform Hobby Lobby, the corporation and its owners the Greens, they really do not have religious conscience against contraceptives because they invest in pharmaceutical companies producing the same contraceptives their corporate religious sensibilities oppose.
Obviously, Hobby Lobby’s owners, as wealthy Christians, expect special tax privileges as a corporation and special religious privileges as a corporation to force compliance to their religion on their employees. It is all about special entitlements with the wealthy elite and evangelical fundamentalists as the nation has witnessed over the past five-and-a-half years. Now they are asking the High Court for more entitlements in the form of religious freedom.
If the Court buys into the idiotic notion that a legal entity (Hobby Lobby Inc.) prays, worships, and hates the idea of including contraception coverage in health insurance plans, it can simply stop providing health insurance coverage. In that case, Hobby Lobby’s owners will spend substantially less paying a minor fine for not offering health insurance than providing it for their employees. However, that ruling would eliminate Hobby Lobby’s original intent to force compliance to their religious beliefs on their employees; that is the real impetus for their lawsuit.
Even if the Court’s conservatives find that providing contraceptives really is a burden on the corporation’s religious exercise, it could tell Hobby Lobby that contraceptive coverage “forwards compelling interest in women’s health and equality under the law” and does so in the least restrictive means to the Green’s religious beliefs. The Court should also dismiss the truly bizarre notion that contraceptives are abortifacients regardless what manner of voodoo drives Hobby Lobby’s owners’ beliefs about contraceptives; reproductive coverage is crucial to women’s health and Hobby Lobby must be reminded there are other Americans’ lives and welfare at stake. Despite what the Greens’ and the religious right believes, the world does not revolve around their inordinate religious sense of self-importance particularly when it is founded on their distorted definition of religious freedom.
Even a ruling that says Hobby Lobby can eliminate one part of healthcare for its employees would be extremely dangerous because the conservatives on the Court would signal again that they give more weight to corporate interests than women’s right to healthcare and freedom from religious imposition. The real danger is that in setting a precedent of “free exercise of religious domination,” the conservatives on the Court will open the floodgates for anyone, corporation, small business, or private individual to use “religious freedom” to discriminate against anyone and flout any law.
For example, a business owner can can claim paying a woman or person of color minimum wage violates their religious belief that women or people of color are only worth a dollar-an-hour. A bigot can claim that being arrested for stoning gays violates their religious freedom, or a fundamentalist Muslim can claim they were exercising religious freedom when they killed their daughter for being raped. It is why the High Court must make explaining what religious freedom means their first order of business; tragically, that appears to be highly unlikely.
The Hobby Lobby case is not, regardless what the Greens say, about contraception coverage; it is about using the vaunted “freedom of religion” as a tool to dominate Americans. It just takes a quick perusal of the Manhattan Declaration that Hobby Lobby’s owners are staunch devotees of to comprehend their goal is using religious freedom to discriminate with impunity and gain control over large swathes of the population. The conservatives on the Supreme Court have already exposed their predilection to rule in favor of corporations and give them inordinate power on myriad cases. With the specter of giving corporations ultimate religious authority over at least half the population, it is doubtful they will rule according to the Constitution when they can rule for corporations that pray, worship, and use religious freedom to dominate the people.
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.