by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
July 11, 2014
THE HOBBY LOBBY CASE: A NEW FRONT IN THE WAR ON WOMEN
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It still seem hard to believe that the U.S. Supreme Court could top their decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the decision that opened the floodgates for big money in politics and enshrines corporate personhood as a legal principle.
But the court outdid itself last week with Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a 5-4 decision that not only reaffirmed corporate personhood and weakened reproductive rights for women, but also succeeded in the elevation of Christianity - as interpreted by conservative nutzoids - as our nation's official state religion.
The five Christian conservative males on the Court sided with the wealthy evangelical Baptist family that runs the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores in ruling that the U.S. government cannot compel private corporations to provide their female employees with health insurance that covers birth control if doing so conflicts with the owner's religious beliefs.
(Of course, Viagra and other erectile dysfunction pills are covered by health insurance, and the legion of Christian conservative males who equate birth control pills with abortion have no problem with this.)
The Hobby Lobby decision represents the ultimate triumph of the modern Republican Party - a party whose standard-bearers are openly hostile to science, question the need for a strict separation of church and state, and are not particularly enthusiastic about civil liberties.
That is why conservatives so vehemently oppose the idea that women - and not opportunistic politicians, religious charlatans, and misogynist idiots - have the right to control their bodies, and by extension, their lives, as they see fit.
They hate the idea of sex for pleasure (for women, anyway), and hate freedom of thought and action. They may say that the principles in the Hobby Lobby case are a matter of "religious liberty," but it's just a re-branding of the same old Republican war against women.
For many Americans, the issue is already settled. The birth control pill has been in use for more than 50 years. Abortion has been legal in the United States for more than 40 years.
Sex has been successfully decoupled from procreation, and that has created an entirely different society, a society where equality, education, and reproductive freedom has led to the advancement of women and the steady diminishment of male privilege.
Yet time and time again, we Americans who are not held hostage to religious dogma have to mobilize to fight for women's health and reproductive rights - a fight that in a rational world wouldn't be taking place.
There was a very good reason why the First Amendment is very clear about the state not having the power to elevate one religion over another, and is equally clear about the right of individuals to believe in any deity they wish, or none at all. But the discussion of faith and values in the political sphere is now required by anyone seeking national political office; we can see the political and public policy implications of having one of our two political parties beholden to religious dogma.
In a civilized nation, women would have access to all aspects of health care, including reproductive health, without argument. But our nation is no longer civilized, and no longer believes in reason and logic. This is why we have a political party that enthusiastically embraces ideas that were once beyond the political pale and are proud to be anti-reason, anti-science, and anti-woman.
And it's not just heterosexual sex that the Hobby Lobby case targets. You can easily see it being applied against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender folks. Or see corporations twisting religion to justify almost any behavior they feel might interfere with their divine right to make as much money as possible.
I prefer to live in a country where doctors, not religious leaders, make health care decisions. I prefer to live in a country where women aren't treated as second-class citizens.
And I definitely prefer to live in a country that values mutual responsibility and looking out for one another ahead of belief in every person for themselves.
That's why this decision won't stand for long. There is movement in Congress to alter the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the legislation that the Court considered in the Hobby Lobby case. Even though it will be blocked by Republicans, it certainly gives Democrats more than enough ammo for the 2014 mid-term elections.
Most of all, I would like to think the majority of Americans doesn't want to see a religious war waged over issues that the rest of the world have already settled.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.