The Supreme Court’s Shameless War on American Democracy


By now, unless you live under a rock or in a cave, you have heard of the Supreme Court’s attack on Americans by ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, stating unequivocally that corporations can not only have religion, but religious freedom that is, apparently, superior to that possessed by actual, living, breathing, human beings – in particular, women.

As Americans United for Separation of Church and State has said of the SCOTUS ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, “This is a dark day for true religious freedom in America,” and the ACLU is certainly correct when it warns, “Today’s Supreme Court ruling gives some companies the ability to use religion as a license to discriminate.” In the words of People for the American Way: “The Supreme Court just ruled 5-4 that CORPORATIONS have a ‘religious’ right to discriminate against their employees.”

President Obama made clear where he stands: with American women in the 21st century, rather than with religious conservatives in the 13th. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday that, “Today’s decision jeopardizes the health of women that are employed by these companies. We believe that a company should not be able to assert their views to deny employees federally mandated coverage.”

The consequences are potentially devastating for Americans:

Republicans have taken heart and are rallying once more to the cry that Obamacare itself is a failure:

Democrats are justifiably outraged. So, unsurprisingly, are those most affected by this decision: women. And women have a right to be outraged. The decision to give corporations more rights than women was made by five men who will not be affected by their own decision.

“A stifling decision for American women,” said Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). “It’s a decision that blocks women from being able to make their own healthcare decisions. Not just reproductive healthcare decisions, but healthcare decisions in general.”

Unsurprisingly, public confidence in the Supreme Court is at an all time low, according to Gallup (not that any branch of government is faring well at the moment).

You think you’re shocked? Imagine how poor Rip Van Winkle would feel to wake up and find out that corporations are more fully realized human beings than he is himself.

The Founding Fathers, in 1787, gave us the secular United States Constitution, a carefully crafted document that established a system of government new to the world, the modern liberal democracy. In so doing, they rejected the Old World paradigm that power derives from the divine right of kings or from God directly, establishing instead the principal that political power derives from the consent of the governed – not to put too fine a point upon it – the people.

In their wisdom, they banned the establishment of state religion and religious tests for public office, thus ensuring (they hoped) that, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, writing in his autobiography of the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom, “to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”

That is what Religious Freedom meant to the Founding Fathers. Actual Freedom for all religions. Not freedom for one religion to persecute all others.

They never expected, you can be certain, that the very Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) that they established under Article III of the Constitution, would one day trample the document over which they had labored so hard through a hot Philadelphia summer:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

What then can the American people do now?

The Founding Fathers were perfect neither in deeds nor foresight, with the result that the Constitution itself is imperfect. In the Federalist Papers No. 81, Alexander Hamilton answered the charge that “the errors and usurpations of the Supreme Court of the United States will be uncontrollable and remediless,” by arguing that “there will be no less reason to fear that the pestilential breath of faction may poison the fountains of justice. The habit of being continually marshalled on opposite sides will be too apt to stifle the voice both of law and equity.”

Then again, Hamilton also thought there was no need for a Bill of Rights (Federalist No. 84).

The White House pointed a finger Monday at Congress to “take action to solve [the] problem” created by the Supreme Court ruling. For the odds of that happening…well, suffice it to say it won’t. Republicans are no more eager to help American women than they are to do anything the president wants to do – about anything.

The result is that, currently, the people of the United States are getting the worst of both worlds, “errors and usurpations” by the Supreme Court and the “pestilential breath of faction” from Congress, with the result that there is, in effect, no remedy available. There is a reason American approval of this Congress is just north of the plague.

The Supreme Court ought to be protecting democracy. Like the other branches of the government, it answers to the people, after all. Instead, at the behest of those who find obtaining the consent of the governed inconvenient to their aims of self-aggrandizement, the Supreme Court is leading the charge against democracy, and against the very Constitution that established it.

Under these conditions, government of the people, by the people, for the people, is effectively dead in America and all those soldiers at Gettysburg who, in Lincoln’s words, gave the last full measure of devotion “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” gave it in vain.

The only recourse available to the American people is change, a popular expression of will by the governed, a rejection of the soul- and body-destroying agenda of the forces of conservative reaction, and against the corporate coup that would usurp our lawful powers as guaranteed by the Constitution.

And let’s face it: getting Hilary Clinton elected would be a good start, and a delicious and endlessly satisfying slap in the face of those who would steal our rights, and the rights of women in particular.

Photo from International Business Times

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