The owners of a chain of stores called Hobby Lobby don't like Obamacare. In particular, they really don't like the part that requires insurance companies to cover contraceptives. Normally, people who don't like a law petition the government to change that law. That's how a nation of laws works.
But these men are Christians. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Christian business owners are special. Their deeply held religious belief that some particular form of contraception is immoral carries more weight than the force of law, five conservative Christian justices ruled. The court -- in a fairly bald admission that its ruling is incoherent -- added that no general amnesty from other laws should be assumed to be the result of its ruling and that its reasoning was strictly limited to women's contraception. Such a limitation raises legitimate questions about the rather perverted and obsessive minds of the five men who made the ruling, but it also carries little legal weight. Precedent is precedent, whether the precedent-setters say so or not.
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered aloud in her dissent, "Would the exemption ... extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus)?"
As long as we're doing a la carte law-abiding, here are a few additional ones that could become optional to certain people with deeply held beliefs.
Entire colonies of people are dedicated to the belief that being compelled to wear clothes is wrong. Others don't believe they should be compelled to make love only indoors. Don't wanna see this on your Saturday stroll? Hey, freedom isn't free.
Most religions profess a deep affinity for peace (while drenching history in blood in the name of religion, but whatever). Why should religious pacifists be compelled to pay taxes that subsidize war? Why should Randians, believers in Atlas Shrugged, the bible for dorm-room free-market evangelists, be forced to support the evil that is government?
There isn't much more religious of an experience than talking directly with God. Hell, Huston Smith included a section on acid in his definitive book The World's Religions. While we're at it, all drug laws rub up against religious practice. Sorry officer, this is our church.
If you've ever talked to a hemp evangelist, you know belief in the crop borders on the religious.
The Bible is packed with tales of impure women meeting a just end under a pile of stones.* Today, in certain countries, they're known as honor killings. Will the court make an exception to murder for the deeply religious?
Female circumcision -- more commonly and accurately known as genital mutilation -- is central to the practice of some religions, according to some people who have strong beliefs. What is a democracy to tell people otherwise? In fact, the same could go for domestic violence, polygamy and whatever else.
For some Amish folk, following a strict religious interpretation of "Do unto others what you would have others do unto you" means selling unpasteurized milk, a practice banned in over 20 states for its potential to carry dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria. While federal law prohibits dairies from selling and distributing raw milk across state lines in final package form, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits states to adopt their own laws on selling raw milk within the borders of the state.
To hell with the Violence Against Women Act, when the Quran authorizes you to strike a disobedient wife, as illustrated in Chapter 4, Verse 34. And we don't have to limit the freedom to Muslim men. As Deuteronomy 25:11-12 testifies, "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity."
*Readers have pointed out that if stoning came before the Supreme Court, a Justice Jesus H. Christ would remind the conservatives on the court that they should side with the stoners only if they themselves are without sin. It is unclear if that would sway a majority.
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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the sale of raw milk is barred under U.S. law. While the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk across state lines is prohibited under federal law to prevent illnesses like campylobacter and salmonella, the FDA does permit a state to adopt laws allowing the sale of raw milk within the borders of the state.