On June 30, 2014, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision on the long awaited "Hobby Lobby" case. In its opinion, the Supreme Court stated, "At issue here are regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), which, as relevant here, requires specified employers' group health plans to furnish 'preventive care and screenings' for women without 'any cost sharing requirements,' 42 U. S. C. §300gg-13(a)(4)." The Court found that "HHS's contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion [because it requires the owners of closely held corporations] to engage in conduct that seriously violates their sincere religious belief that life begins at conception." Thus, the court ruled that "The contraceptive mandate, as applied to closely held corporations, violates RFRA."
Closely held corporations are formed under state law. Most states have a section of their corporation statute that allows for the formation of a special type of corporation with a limited number of owners. Typically, states require closely held corporations to have no more than 35 shareholders. The Internal Revenue Service adds a further restriction by requiring that 50 percent of the company be owned by no more than five shareholders.
It is essential that we understand exactly what occurred in this and other cases decided by this Supreme Court, so that we don't set things in place to make matters even worse in the future. This decision is not really about "religious rights;" rather, it is about corporate profits and women's rights in the United States of America. "'The Roberts court is the most pro-business court since the mid-1930s,' said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine." Does anyone really believe that businesses suffered for the entire period between the mid-1930's and September 29, 2005, when John G. Roberts, Jr. became the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court?
I must say that regardless of what these "pro-business" Justices may have ruled in the "Citizens United" and "Hobby Lobby" cases, corporations are not persons and they don't have beliefs. If you doubt me, try driving in the carpool lane in your car, with "Articles of Incorporation" laying on the passenger seat and try talking your way out of a ticket. Jonathan Frieman did just that following the Supreme Court's decision in "Citizens United" and he lost.
First of all, "Contraceptive Coverage [Is] Essential to Women's Health," as The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explained in its news release of November 26, 2013. In that news release, the organization described the benefits of contraception as including the following:
(1) Allows a woman to be as healthy as possible before pregnancy, leading to healthier pregnancies and healthier babies...; (2) Lowers the risk of unplanned pregnancies and abortions; (3) Allows for adequate birth spacing, lowering the risks of low birth weight and preterm birth; and (4) Offers important noncontraceptive benefits, including lowering the risk of certain cancers, treating heavy menstrual bleeding and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), and reducing symptoms of endometriosis.
It should be noted that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists "filed 12 amicus briefs in support of the contraceptive coverage provision of the ACA." Nevertheless, the Supreme Court's decision mentioned absolutely nothing about the benefits of contraception in its opinion.
As is usual for this Supreme Court, it should be noted that this decision was rendered by a Court divided along ideological lines. Although it was a 5-4 decision, it has the same force and effect as if it were a 9-0 decision. The five Justices responsible for this decision happen to all be men appointed by Republican Presidents. Each of those Justices also happen to be Roman Catholic. As Erwin Chemerinsky commented, "Once more, the court's conservative majority has engaged in stunning judicial activism in striking down a federal law based on its own conservative beliefs." Unfortunately, as Karin Klein noted, "This court majority is clearly more comfortable with conservative Christian values ... than it is with those of other religions." As I have said before, "People are entitled to their beliefs. However, a line must be drawn when the beliefs of one person or a group of people harm another person or group of people." For those interested, the four dissenting Justices were appointed by Democratic Presidents, including all three of the women Justices. Each of those Justices happen to be Jewish, except for Sonia Sotomayor, who is also Roman Catholic. However, in case you hadn't already realized, she is a woman who was appointed by a Democrat.
Second, the United States has a very serious problem with religious ideology. I ended my article titled "Enlightened Parents Learn from Both the Successes and Failures of Others," as follows: "Let's toast to the importance of history and better yet, the enlightenment that comes through learning from the past!" The history of mankind is replete with examples of the horrors caused by religious ideology, most recently in the Middle East. In fact, on June 13, 2014, I was involved in a panel discussion on "The Roger Hedgecock Show," wherein we discussed the issue of "Powerful Terror group creating chaos in Iraq." While I didn't have an opportunity to say much in that discussion because I was mostly involved in the segment pertaining to teacher tenure, I did comment on the fact that when the United States went to war with Iraq during George W. Bush's administration and overthrew Saddam Hussein, it did not consider how its decision would play out with regard to the ideologies in that part of the world. Roger Hedgecock thought he was correcting me, when he said that it was about religion and not ideology. However, I had carefully chosen the word "ideology" and responded that it was about "religious ideology." The fact that the ideology happens to be religious only describes the particular type of ideology involved. The United States has been warning Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of its fears over what it considers "the political mistreatment of Sunnis." Unfortunately, the Prime Minister ignored the United States and anyone who follows the news knows what has occurred as a result. On June 20, 2014, one of the United Nations' top officials said that "Iraq needs more inclusive governance across sectarian and religious divides if it is to end its turmoil, something only its own politicians can deliver."
While many people are touting the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case as a victory for religious freedom, it is quite the opposite. In fact, those who view this as a victory for religious freedom also happen to be part of a substantial and vocal minority in the United States (approximately 34 percent) who "favor Christianity as the official state religion in their state. You read that correctly: 34 percent in favor of establishing Christianity as the state religion, as in creating a theocracy. There's more: when asked whether they would favor an amendment to the U.S. Constitution making Christianity the official religion of the United States, 32 percent said yes." Clearly, these individuals do not want religious freedom. What they consider religious freedom is the ability to impose their religious views on everyone else. That is NOT religious freedom. Moreover, it is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution and ignores our own history because the Pilgrims came to the New World seeking religious freedom.
The free-exercise clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that
'Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise (of religion).' The free-exercise clause pertains to the right to freely exercise one's religion. It states that the government shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Although the text is absolute, the courts place some limits on the exercise of religion. For example, courts would not hold that the First Amendment protects human sacrifice even if some religion required it. The Supreme Court has interpreted this clause so that the freedom to believe is absolute, but the ability to act on those beliefs is not.
The Hobby Lobby decision is inconsistent with that interpretation.
Third, while the Supreme Court's decision involved closely held corporations, bear in mind that "more than 90 percent of private sector companies are categorized as closely held and employ 52 percent of American workers." Furthermore, there are far more employees of those companies than there are owners. Moreover, women make up the majority of the American workforce. In other words, this decision has the potential of negatively impacting a substantial number of women. Please note, however, that Hobby Lobby and the other closely held corporations involved in this case still cover vasectomies, Viagra and other such treatments for their male employees.
This "war against women" is not limited to abortion and contraception, but also includes their right to receive equal pay for equal work. "According to the latest U.S. Census statistics, on average, full-time working women still earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men." However, the Republican controlled Congress has refused to do much of anything, including address this particular issue. As a result, President Obama issued an Executive Order requiring equal pay for men and women by any federal contractors. Unfortunately, Executive Orders are somewhat limited in their scope, but President Obama is doing everything in his power to fight for women's equality and human rights issues.
For those who wish to believe that a President's use of Executive Orders is somehow inappropriate, I suggest that you check the facts before buying into any political ideology. President Obama has issued fewer Executive Orders than most modern day Presidents. His reluctance to make Executive Orders is rather noteworthy, considering that
no president has ever before had to deal with a Congress like this one in one very specific sense. There has never been a Congress in the history of Congress that has done less than this one we`ve got now. It`s a matter of a historic fact. The record holder for the least legislation passed, the least action taken by any Congress in U.S. history is the last Congress that wrapped up last year. The current Congress that we`re in right now is on pace to beat even that record. And so, yes, every president gets annoyed with Congress, but this one has sunk to a whole new level of you`re making me crazy, man.
Fourth, it should be noted that until the information became public, "the contraceptive devices and products that so offend the religious beliefs of [the family behind Hobby Lobby were] manufactured by the very companies in which Hobby Lobby [held] a substantial stake via their employee 401(k) plan." What about the fact that "Hobby Lobby imports billions of dollars of products from China?" Among other things, "although the one child policy was technically lifted, abandonment and selective killing of female babies continues. Forced abortion, although technically frowned upon by the government, is still a regular practice in China. Is the disruption of creation of life only relevant as a Christian when it's an American life?" Of course, it doesn't hurt that Hobby Lobby and these other closely held corporations no longer need to pay for such insurance. By decreasing their business expenses, these companies have increased the profits that go to their owners. Actions speak louder than words and Hobby Lobby's actions do not demonstrate that this lawsuit had anything to do with "sincere religious beliefs."
For decades, I have been warning people that one of the most powerful things a President does is nominate Judges to the Supreme Court. "Under Article II of the Constitution, the President has the power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint Judges of the Supreme Court. Since Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life, each nomination to the Supreme Court has a long-lasting influence on the Court and on the day-to-day life of every American." I should point out that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 81 years old, and that three other Justices are over 75 years of age. Two of those Justices were appointed by Republican Presidents, two by Democratic Presidents, and Justice Kennedy is the Republican appointed "swing vote" on many decisions, even though he tends to swing to the "Right," so to speak, as he did on the Hobby Lobby decision.
Since the Supreme Court issued its decision, many people have suggested boycotting Hobby Lobby and other such businesses. While I support such a decision, it misses the bigger issue. Although Hobby Lobby and other closely held corporations may have filed the lawsuit, it was the Republican appointed Justices who made this ruling. What do you think will happen if any of the Democratic appointed Justices or even the "swing vote" is replaced by yet another Conservative Justice? I've been saying this for over a decade and women make up a majority of the population. In other words, ladies, you did this to yourselves every time you voted for a Republican President, as did those men who support women. Human rights are worth far more to me than money.
In my opinion, women, members of the LGBT community, and racial minorities who cast votes for Republican candidates believe that money is worth more than their human rights. As for those of you who claim to vote their "faith," it is your right to do so. However, don't complain when you lose rights you currently hold that others before you fought so hard to obtain. Unfortunately, I learned long ago that change happens from the outside in and not from the inside out. It is exactly for this reason, that I have been working so tirelessly to educate those outside of "the family law community" about the need for reform. Once enough people leave the Republican Party, it will have no choice but to become more inclusive. For those of you who want to blame the Tea Party for this, I want to point out that we have never had a Tea Party President. The following Republican Presidents appointed the "conservative wing" of the Supreme Court: Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Anthony Kennedy, the "swing vote," who tends to swing to the Right, was appointed by Ronald Reagan. The remaining Justices were appointed by either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. The Republican Party as a whole has become more conservative over the past several decades and the Tea Party happens to be even more conservative.
Abigail Adams once said, "Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to forment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation." Abigail Adams died on October 28, 1818, more than 100 years before the United States Federal Government granted women the right to vote. When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, he said, "the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men." If you want to break down this injustice that has been building for quite some time, you must do so by exercising your voting rights and doing so in a more thoughtful manner. Anyone and everyone eligible to vote in the United States of America and who values human rights must stop voting for Republican candidates unless and until they start respecting human rights above the rights of corporate entities and an elite group of Christian Caucasian heterosexual males.
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