Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Five Catholic Men and the War on Women

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided by 5-4 (That would be 5 Roman Catholic men against 3 women and a man) that Hobby Lobby, a "closely held" corporation, can have religious beliefs and refuse to provide coverage for certain forms of contraception to its employees.  They took pains to say this was only about contraception.

Charles Pierce writes,
Religious freedom exists in the realm of medicine only to those religions that the Court finds acceptable—and, I would argue, only to those religions to which the members of the Court belong.
The order has already been extended to cover employers who object to all forms of contraception.
The Affordable Care Act regulations issued by the federal government, however, required sixteen different preventive methods or services, including sterilization and pregnancy counseling. Depending upon how lower courts now interpret the Hobby Lobby decision, companies that fit within the Court’s “closely held company” bracket and offer religious objections could be spared from having to provide any of those services through their employee health plans.

In three cases in which a federal appeals court had rejected the challenges to the mandate, the new Supreme Court orders told those courts to reconsider, applying Monday’s decision. The companies or their owners had taken those petitions to the Court.
On three petitions filed by the federal government, involving appeals court rulings rejecting the challenges by corporations. their owners, or both, the Justices simply denied review.
So, right now, if you work for a Catholic, they can complicate your access to ANY form of contraception.  And that includes vasectomies for men.

Now, Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion said that this limitation was okay, because there is already a government "accommodation" for non-profits that don't want to cover contraception;  they file a form with the government claiming a waiver, and the government steps in.

Except that the next case on this issue is by such a non-profit that is protesting the "accommodation" because even to file the form, they argue, is a violation of their religious rights.  Basically, they want to deny their employees access to contraceptive coverage by whatever means.
That accommodation is itself the subject of a handful of legal challenges from religious freedom groups who believe that it violates their religious beliefs by, essentially, asking them to fill out a form. ...Today's majority opinion from Justice Alito certainly does not, it should be noted, settle the question of whether that accommodation is legal or not — addressing that question seems to be the next logical step in sorting out the legal details of the mandate
What this means?
That’s because to assert a right to control employees’ private choice [is] to hold that religious people—or, even more ominously, some favored religious people—are more easily injured than others, that their free-exercise rights trump those of their employees. The Court has insulated benefits to religion from veto by objecting citizens; now the religious want the right to veto on religious grounds benefits that flow to others. All consciences are equal; but some are thus more equal than others.
And, more ominously,
The Hobby Lobby decision may certainly embolden religious employers to object to laws they consider burdensome. But that doesn’t mean they’re always going to win. The court made clear in this ruling that religion should not always trump the law, and said its decision applies to the contraception mandate, not other insurance mandates. The court also specified that an employer could not use religion to get an exemption from laws that prohibit discrimination — on the basis of race, for example. The justices were silent, however, on whether employers’ religious beliefs could override laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
So if you don't want to sell mushrooms to a gay person, let alone a cake, because your religion is opposed to gay people?  (And let's not go love the sinner, hate the sin:  you are opposed to the existence of gay people if you refuse to deal with us in civil space.)  That's the next question.   
Anti-gay activists are rejoicing at the Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby today, in part because they are hopeful that the decision will pave the way for one of their own policy goals: to use the religious liberty argument to push for broad exemptions for corporations from nondiscrimination laws.
And if they can discriminate against gays, why not against women?  Or Mexicans?  Or Muslims?  We'll be discussing this new "Christian" separatism in a later post.


JCF said...

"That would be 5 Roman Catholic men against 3 women and a man"

The latter being, respectively, 3 Jews and a Wise Latina.

We're to believe that this decision won't be extended to any other Boss's Religion Over Employees Lives conflict, on the basis of Alito's unsubstantiated ASSERTION that it won't be.

Say I'm a business owner. I have a "strongly-held religious conviction" that people should have no more than two born-to-them children. So, for MY employees, obstetrics coverage cuts off after two. Am I NOT to "mandate" this policy on Alito's say-so? Or would I rather be (so to speak) "judged by 12 than carried by 6"? [Disclosure: I do have this conviction, but IRL, I would NEVER mandate it!]

As one legal pundit put it yesterday, "I read this decision and thought, 'it'll NEVER stand up on appeal' . . . and then I remembered." >:-/

IT said...

Or "I have a strong opposition to homosexuality, so i'm not going to cover Truvada for a gay employee" or "I'm not going to offer spousal coverage to a legally married gay employee's husband" etc etc.