Monday, June 30, 2014

Why Today's Hobby Lobby Ruling Should Be A Slam Dunk for Common Sense

Photo: Cartoon on today's Supreme Court decision (Hobby Lobby)Today the Supreme Court considers the “Hobby Lobby” case and there’s really no excuse for not getting it right – which is to say slapping down Hobby Lobby once and for all – preferably in a 9-0 decision.

Look, the aspects of this case are pretty basic, so much so that even a non-legal person can grasp them. On the surface the Justices have to weigh the right of female employees of corporations – companies to the birth control of their choice (delivered via Obamacare), versus the “religious rights” of employers – but which are in fact corporations.

Here's a brief summation of the case, which involves contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act: Employers must cover contraception at no extra charge for women - among a range of preventive benefits in employee health plans.  Dozens of companies, including Oklahoma City based Hobby Lobby claim religious objection to covering some or all of .the contraceptives. They insist it's a violation of their "religious rights".

(I already dealt with the fallacious arguments advanced by Catholic organizations here: )

The methods and devices at issue before the Court are those that Hobby Lobby and furniture maker Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, PA say can work after contraception - which is to say, are abortifacents.  These include the emergency contraceptives 'Plan B' and 'Ella'. Which is total nonsense since none of the drugs works that way, i.e. they are not "abortifacents" - another scare word dreamed up by the zealots. The devices also include intra-uterine devices, which can cost up to $1,000.

As one recent editorial (Dallas Morning News. March 31) framed it:

 the deep-seated personal convictions of  Hobby Lobby’s executive and Conestoga’s Mennonite owners are not in question. What is at issue is whether a private, profit-making business can dictate religious beliefs on employees.”

In other words, an SC affirmative verdict would de facto extend the religious rights of individuals to corporations that are legal artifacts – not persons – and exhibit no explicit religious missions!

Moreover, as I noted before, legal artifacts – whether corporations, municipalities, counties or states do not have rights!  Only flesh and blood people can have rights – as per Prof. Garry Wills famous assertion ( A Necessary Evil: A History Of American Distrust Of Government, Simon & Schuster, 1999, observes, p. 108) that legal artifacts, including states – retain prerogatives which are artificial not natural - since they are things made by contract.  Thus:

Governments and legal entities  have prerogatives, people have rights

If the Justices were to find for Hobby Lobby, they would be torching over 200 years of how rights are defined, and instead conflate prerogatives of a contractual, legal entity with personal rights. The result would be such a legal atrocity that Citizens United would pale beside it.
It would also open a ‘Pandora’s box’ allowing corporations – businesses to pell mell deny employees a host of other previously assumed benefits or rights- OR demand behaviors comporting with the owners' religious beliefs.. For example, a Mennonite owned business might one day then decide to order all its female employees to wear Mennonite head gear ('bonnets') at work. They will cite the pro ‘Hobby Lobby’ decision and bellow that it is their “religious right’ to demand their female employees heel to their precious beliefs and this is their "religious liberty" in action.  Or, a fundie owner of a business may demand all employees read the Bible (KJV) for one hour each day during lunch time – while eating their lunch. (Talk about indigestion!)

The point is any conflation of people with legal artifacts forged by contract,  is a dangerous path to tread because businesses and corporations – as legal entities – are distinct from the individuals who created them. As the Obama Administration has persuasively argued:

The owners of Hobby Lobby aren’t entitled to exemption for their business based on their individual religious beliefs

Or, as the Philly-based federal appeals court pithily put it:

Businesses do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiously motivated actions.”

It is also important to note the Court has never recognized a for profit corporation's "religious rights" under federal law or the Constitution. 

If the Supreme Court changes course, violating all previous rulings and precedents, then this country is totally fucked – as its judiciary has taken flight into the realm of unreality and fantasy.  We will then be only one small jump from becoming a plutocratic theocracy. Worse, any Justices so voting will have shown it isn't  the law they respect or revere, but the  pre-meditated debasement of reality via political chicanery and PR. Indeed, such a ruling would be as vile and debased as the revised FISA law passed by congress (which made the illegal wiretaps of Bush Co. legal, paving the way for the mass surveillance transgressions of the NSA.)

 The country is already headed into the crapper after Citizens United and the subsequent decision to enable unlimited diffusion of funds into the political process.
Any pro-Hobby Lobby, pro- religious business decision will finish us off.

No comments: