Religion without humanity is poor human stuff.
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
Blaise Pascal (Pensees) 1670
There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. ~Mahatma Gandhi
Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.
Western Art, Song and Literature elevate religious thought and feeling, canon and belief throughout centuries. Women burning as witches, brother slaying brother, specifics of the creed determine lives. Families fleeing intolerance and persecution, cultures reproduce in unlikely spaces across the world. The United States proclaims a refuge for the persecuted: Puritan, Quaker, Catholic, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Lutheran, Anglican. All voices may rise in free worship; the atheist song as well. Free speech, free association, freedom of religion. Until today.
Compromised, contained, categorized, freedom of Religion, certainly. Legal minds splitting threads of legal thought. Fine, fine filaments. Today, the Supreme Court severed the strand.
A circle of owners, a private family business, Hobby Lobby sells bric a brac, becomes wildly successful. The family establishes a trust, then forms a ‘closely held corporation’. Corporate law creates a shield for individual family members. The corporate form protects against legal liability. It bestows abundant tax benefits to the family. The corporation donates generously, strategically to social and election campaigns, pursues political objectives. Hobby Lobby, one of Forbes 150 top US closely held corporations, spends fortunes to create a political agenda.
Hobby Lobby need not account for how it spends money: a corporation can be a “person” under US law.
And, Hobby Lobby, need not be consistent in belief and behavior.
Hobby Lobby, the corporation, unfettered, free, invests workers money wisely, even into funds of other corporations which are makers of medicines and devices for birth control.(These companies’ business violates Hobby Lobby’s ethical code. But the fund makes a profit.) No worker sues to divest this course. Corporate freedom of investment remains unencumbered.
Hobby Lobby denies female workers access to health care options which include contraceptive care. Corporate owners announce that their personal moral and religious beliefs oppose reproductive planning health care. They oppose this care even if used to treat a strictly medical condition. The owners assert their corporation has the same religious views. They assert the right for free exercise of religion by their family corporation.
The Corporation is victorious once again.
The Supreme Court will not require closely held corporations to direct money into undifferentiated funds which finance a variety of health benefits under comprehensive health plans, including reproductive care. Not when the Corporation asserts that the provision of reproductive care violates a sincerely held religious value. Never mind that many workers have different but equally important and as sincerely held religious beliefs. Never mind that these workers financially depend on the job for health care and insurance. Do not consider that any worker whose values are offended can opt out of the insurance program or the reproductive benefits. Why these factors do not matter is not clear. Corporate free exercise of religion, apparently, trumps all.
Before today, a worker at Hobby Lobby who wanted access to reproductive health care whether for contraception or medical reasons had insurance coverage to obtain it. Now, no matter the individual worker’s belief system, she has no reproductive health care insurance coverage whether it is for family planning or it is medically necessary.
What other corporate ethical codes will trump a worker’s own? Hobby Lobby, and countless other corporate consciences, could contrive religious exemptions to many legal mandates. Many heard before, will they find favor if raised anew? “It’s against my religious beliefs to allow…” blood transfusions; antidepressants; vaccinations; anesthesia; gelatin covered, pig derived or animal tested medicine! “My religion precludes me from…” employing women, paying minimum wages; employing integrated races; employing integrated religions, employing homosexuals, providing professional services to persons not of my religion, not of my race, not of my sexual orientation.
But, is it again about the woman, the worker, the working woman’s womb? Is it coincidence that the challenge which reached the court concerned women’s health? Should we overlook that this challenge implicates contraception?
Byzantine though the anti-birth control politicians seem, they are relentless. A fully realized woman, empowered, employed, sexually fulfilled, a mother, healthy, and above all happy with this life, affronts grotesque puritan values. Values which mock us around the modern world. Values so rooted at home we do not feel the constriction.
The sun is shining bright in Philadelphia, merely 90 miles away from that decision. Still, no greater darkness has manifest in the life of women from the law, in decades.