There’s an old rule about taking any kind of pledge. Once taken, that pledge is immediately broken, thanks to circumstances too overwhelming to ignore. To wit, Hobby Lobby and my promise to never tread on the topic of religion in these oddly overlooked pages again. Hobby Lobby has made a liar of me and I will own that. As I write, the Roberts Court is considering the idea of giving corporations the right to opt out of federal law if their owners or stockholders object to any single provision of said federal law on religious grounds. Hobby Lobby, a large crafts supply chain, wants the right to not cover contraception services for employees enrolled in their corporate health plan. The threat to the uniformity and reach of federal law with a Hobby Lobby win is the first concern. That said, let us count the ways that corporations have co-opted the rights and liberties once reserved for individual Americans.
The Supreme Court has held previously, along with that other corporate aristocrat, Mitt Romney, that corporations are people. A corporation is only an intangible entity that exists on paper. Corporations are formed in a secular society for the lone purpose of rolling up profits for the corporation and its stockholders. Except for non profits with a clear religious identity and a prescribed faith based agenda, there is no religious component with any for profit corporation because corporations have no mandated ability to discriminate regarding the customers they serve. The Civil Rights Era gave us lunch counter sit ins. In that far off time, black men and women sat quietly at lunch counters in the Jim Crow South and asked to be served. They were refused based on their ethnicity.
The Civil Rights Act and other federal laws were passed to safeguard individual rights to prevent discrimination in public accommodations such as lunch counters, restaurants, hotels and every other for profit business open to the public. With a thumbs up from the Roberts Mafia, Hobby Lobby will have the go ahead to pick and choose what parts of federal law they want to ignore on religious grounds. The company will start with stealing federally guaranteed services from employees and soon enough, customers could one day have to sign a religiously based pledge to buy goods and services from Hobby Lobby. Which master will Hobby Lobby serve? Religion of profit? This is boiler plate First Amendment and the Supremes were goons to even take the this case.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...”
A Hobby Lobby win will mean that the United States would deny aspects of federal law to select individuals based on religious grounds. That is the same as encoding religious principles into the government and even worse, the government would be doing it selectively. It would also give up the right to enforce federal law by handing over the power to withhold it to corporations who have religious objections to following it. With Citizens United, the Supremes have already handed over the electoral process to corporations, which now throw unlimited money into lobbying and election campaigns at the expense of individual Americans, who cannot afford to buy millions in advertising time to support the candidates they want.
The free exercise of religion is guaranteed in the Constitution but that means the right to private worship. It does not mean the right for corporations with great financial power to carve out sections of federal law on religious grounds. It does not mean that Hobby Lobby may deny their employees the full benefits of federal law on religious grounds. Someone may work for Hobby Lobby but what requires that employee to worship as his employer demands? The workplace is not the venue for worship anyway. How can a private employer subvert federal law on religious grounds? The Equal Protection Clause, found in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, requires that all laws must be applied equally to everyone. if a Hobby Lobby employee is denied any part of the protections in federal law, then the Equal Protection Clause has been violated, since other workers across the country enjoy those protections. Senator Elizabeth Warren weighs in below;
Because the Supremes generally behave as a black robed coffee klatch instead of a deliberative judicial body, I have little faith that the corporatist Roberts Court will make the right decision. If Hobby Lobby’s new pastime turns out to be selective nullification of federal laws based on religious objections , then the wall between Church and State will sink to the height of a football and our rights and protections enshrined in federal law will be punted away in favor of dogma driven denial of those same rights. However the football spins, the swing vote is likely to be Justice Kennedy and the decision, for or against, will likely break out 5-4. Don’t fumble, Justice Kennedy. Rachel Maddow adds context about the Hobby Lobby ruling;
I propose an automatic review within two years of all 5-4 Supreme Court decisions. This would be the next best thing to Clarence Thomas being surgically separated from Antonin Scalia’s body. Clarence is sleeping so peacefully. It’s best not to wake him. Hobby Lobby and the Supreme drag queens have given this country the worst slippery slope to ponder in a century, so hang on. The law may be on the way to becoming a series of corporately imposed religious opinions. Do me a favor though. Think about it and for God’s sake, don’t pray about it.
Sleep tight, Roger Williams.
On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that Hobby Lobby could deny birth control coverage based on the corporation’s religious objections. This awful piece of reasoning means that Hobby Lobby can be a corporation when it suits it and a religious organization when it suits it. Stand by for other profit making entities to add a religious twist to their incorporation papers for the express purpose of denying the benefits and protections of federal law to their employees. This violates the Equal Protection language in the Constitution but when has that document mattered to the Supreme Court of The United States? It destroys the separation of church and state and redefines religion as a corporate prerogative and not a private, individual right. This is also a hijacking of individual rights and liberties from the private sphere to the corporate world. The Supreme Court continues its steady destruction of the Bill of Rights. We are no longer a nation of laws and the Bill of Rights does not guarantee liberty. The Roberts Court has proven this to a fault.