On the last day of the 2013-2014 term, the Supreme Court of the United States released its opinion on Hobby Lobby’s claim for religious exemption from the ACA’s contraception requirement. The court found that closely held corporations may have the same religious beliefs as their stockholders. So, religion trumps science in that a strongly held belief, even if it is completely wrong, is treated as a valid reason for a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage requirement.
Hobby Lobby, a craft store, has decided that IUD’s and the morning after pill cause abortions. As a religious, corporate person, their erroneous belief is as legitimate as the scientific evidence relied on by the medical practitioners their female employees would consult. So, SCOTUS gave them a carve out, noting there are sixteen methods of birth control they are willing to cover in health insurance. Conestoga Woods, a custom cabinet maker owned by Mennonites, was also a beneficiary of this ruling.
So a craft store and a custom cabinet manufacturer owned by extremely conservative Christians get the same exemption as a church or religious nonprofit. This may be the first time SCOTUS has ruled one group’s religious dogma is superior to another’s. After all, the owners are imposing their beliefs on their employees who may not share their views. I sincerely doubt the framers had that in mind when they crafted the Establishment Clause.
SCOTUS made it a point to call this a narrow ruling. It only deals with closely held corporations and only with religious objections to contraceptives. It’s as if SCOTUS feels they can un-ring a bell. Justice Ginsberg wrote a scathing dissent warning the court had just, “ventured into a minefield.” An apt description. Narrow or not, precedent is now established for discrimination based on religious beliefs. Let’s sweep for mines and follow.
Since Nixon sold the GOP’s soul to Jerry Falwell and other reactionary religious leaders, the party has been moving towards a theocratic mind set. At first slowly. Now, every member of the GOP seems to be trying to out Jesus each other. They wear their faith on their sleeve and reject anything that shows some of their extreme views are false or absurd. Or both. In 2008 when Presidential contenders were asked at a debate if they believe in evolution, Mike Huckabee said he didn’t. At that point in time he was alone.
The morphing of the GOP from a business oriented, friend of the wealthy conservative party into a reactionary, Christian party longing to restore an America that never existed has accelerated since the failure to impeach Bill Clinton. Each election cycle saw party members rail about the decline of values and morality in the United States. They condemned the “Hollywood” influence on cultural norms. They extolled “Christian” values as the foundation of American exceptionalism. Of course they were talking about Protestant work ethic.
As the Bush /Cheney cartel wound down, the far right Christian ground troops who pumped time and a lot of cash into GOP coffers grew tired and angry over their abuse and the party’s empty promises. They struck back at the Republican party. It caught the establishment on both sides by surprise.
The primary battles were vicious as these Christian candidates pummeled the entrenched incumbents as enabling the ascendancy of secular America. The insurgents coined RINO (Republican In Name Only). They railed against science and history education as a liberal plot to indoctrinate American children as godless humanists. Then Barack Obama was elected president by a comfortable margin. These disgruntled radical Republicans lost their mind. Opposition coalesced overnight. America had been betrayed by a coalition of people who were after freebies, un-American in their outlook and shouldn’t even be allowed to vote.
The Internet exploded in a mass of rumor, conspiracy, sedition, treason and anger over the plot to destroy Christianity. At first it was the tin foil hat brigade, egged on by Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh. Gradually though, to our shame, the media started treating these fantasies as actual news stories. The covert racism that bubbled under modern American politics raised its ugly head. Republican members of Congress called for proof of citizenship from POTUS. They called him Mister Obama instead of President. His church in Chicago became an issue and he was called a secret Muslim. People wanted college transcripts. I don’t recall a Yale legacy admission like W. ever being asked.
In 2010, a coalition of reactionary Christians and extremist conservatives took aim and exploded into political life as the Tea Party. They were against everything that defined modern American life. They extolled discredited political philosophies and wanted to turn back the clock, undo a century of progressive victories, then restore Reagan’s shining city on a hill. And the President was black and had a funny name.
These zealots rejected politics as usual. The lifeblood of American politics is compromise. It’s how shit gets done in DC. Compromise became, to this freshman class of anarchists, weakness and arch betrayal.
These Tea Party insurgents wore their Christian faith on their sleeve and bemoaned that all did not do so. This was a faith of cherry picked passages from the Bible preaching hate, intolerance, misogyny and total rejection of the 21st Century . After all this century is a commie, socialist, fascist secular plot to destroy “Traditional American Values”. To many they were considered a joke. Their views were so far out of the mainstream they weren’t taken seriously. They crushed the Democrats in 2010 handing the US House and many Legislatures across the country to the Luddites and crusaders. One should always take zealots seriously, as the Democrats learned.
We are seeing the Republicans standing now as a party of theocracy and economic oligarchy. They reject science denying climate change. Many embrace creationism and the young Earth as valid scientific positions that need to be enshrined in law. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and a physician, has called science lies from the pit of Hell. This is basically echoed by far too many Republican officeholders in Congress, state legislatures and local governments across a nation that put a man on the Moon.
As a companion piece to this uber-conservative faux Christianity is a school of thought pushing a false revision of American history. To them the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation is a basic premise. A corollary is that slavery was not that bad and was destroyed by churches anyway. As a history major who has cut class since 1971, my first response is, WTF?!?
The guiding light of this false historical narrative is David Barton, Glenn Beck’s favorite historian. Beck cited as part of Barton’s credentials that he had the largest collection of documents from the founders in private hands. I have every Beatles album but that doesn’t make me John Lennon.
Barton’s degree is in Christian education from that leading bastion of knowledge, Oral Roberts University. I was a history major at Whitehall-Yearling High School in Whitehall, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. I took every social studies course they offered. I then walked through some advanced history courses when I attended The Ohio State University. So, in my unbiased opinion, I have better credentials as a historian than Barton. However, since I didn’t matriculate I don’t declare myself as a historian or an expert. I am simply a well-informed layman. There is actually a limit to my arrogance. Not so with Barton. Let us take a peek.
Barton has said that the founders supported creationism over evolution. The only problem there is Darwin’s theory was published in 1859. Oops. He cites Jefferson’s usage of a creator in the Declaration of Independence and use of the year of our Lord as proof of being devout. Well, Jefferson compiled a version of the Bible that excluded every supernatural reference. Jefferson also coined the term “Separation of Church and State”. Barton used extremely convoluted reasoning to twist Jefferson’s words to mean religion is protected from the state while the state is not protected from religion. Barton’s book “The Jefferson Lies” was pulled from sale after a blistering refutation by conservative historical scholars. Barton has been condemned for shoddy research, unsupported quotes, blatant misrepresentation and outright fabrications. Unfortunately many leading lights of the right treat Barton as an impeccable source of the true history of America. After all, Adams must have been wrong when he claimed, “Facts are stubborn things.”
Springboro, Ohio proposed presenting a series of history courses developed by Barton as legitimate scholarship. That crashed and burned as sanity prevailed. Though we can see his influence here in Ohio and beyond. A Powell Republican said with a straight face that public education was socialism. The constant refrain that we are a Christian nation is pure Barton in a nutshell. (Emphasis on nut)
We seem to be in a perfect storm of the media acquiescing to all viewpoints as being valid, the growing power of anti-intellectualism as a political force, the ascendancy of perverted Christian thought and scholarship to see SCOTUS declare corporations are people and religious. We seem to becoming a feudal, theocratic state. We must bow down to only certain Christian cults as they assert primacy over our lives and submit to corporations enjoying unfettered rights for domination of American society.
Hobby Lobby continues the assault on the modern American woman. Working women should be home with their children. Women who need help to support their children should get off their asses and get a job. Women need abortion laws to keep them from avoiding the consequences of recreational sex. Women are so stupid they need constant reminding a clump of cells are a full-fledged human whose rights are superior to hers. After all, she is biblically just a walking, silent incubator.
Ohio seems to be a leader in this insanity. We seem to want to be Texas or Mississippi. Our outlandish laws are template for the Old Confederacy. Ironic since Ohio was the political, manufacturing and military powerhouse of the Union during the Civil War.
The abysmal abortion regulations foisted on Ohio women last July are a prime example. Women are so stubborn in a desire to use abortion as a casual form of birth control they need the doctor to lie to them in a state mandated script. They need to wait longer to come to their senses. Pregnancy crisis centers need to use any means to stop the woman’s emotional reaction to an unwanted pregnancy. Ohio’s patriarchal legislature knows more than the American Medical Association. Thus they were competent to redefine pregnancy.
Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine filed friend of the court briefs in the Hobby Lobby case. He also feels compelled to do the same in any and all abortion challenges across the country. He also feels it’s in Ohio’s interest to interfere anywhere marriage equality seems about to happen. It appears AG DeWine has forgotten which state he is actually attorney general of.
Here we are. We stand in what seems like a post-apocalyptic landscape. God is an American. Jesus hates the poor and loves the wealthy. A woman must carry to term so she can be denied help with the child. Same sex marriage will destroy America by inviting natural disaster and mass killings as heavenly retribution. A corporation’s religious beliefs trump your beliefs. Persecution is liberty. War is good.
Americans have always lacked a sense of historical context. There has always been the idea in a representative democracy one’s ignorance is equal to everyone’s acceptance of the real world. Today, with education and unlimited opportunities to seek knowledge on the web, ignorance is a choice. And it is worn as a badge of honor by far too many in seats of power.
It is past time to co opt a Tea Party phrase: We want our country back. Ignorance needs to be met with inconvenient facts. Make it so. After all, we get the government we deserve when we don’t push back. If we don’t stand and say, no more, who will?