YEAH, HOBBY LOBBY IS HARMLESS

KJV_Bible

The recent Supreme Court decision allowing Hobby Lobby to opt out of providing contraceptive insurance coverage for its female employees is so wrong on so many levels and it thoroughly shocked me when it was handed down.

My primary objection to it, aside from the fact it was in no way about religious freedom, is that it allowed Hobby Lobby (or more precisely the human beings who are its major shareholders) to declare that their religious beliefs trumped a federal law but their “religious” belief was, in the end, an utterly wrong scientific belief. Or I should say a belief that is not supported by science. That is, the company did not want to cover contraceptive devices and drugs which it deemed to be abortifacients when all available scientific knowledge disputes this, with a few outliers most definitely among a minute minority.

I stated from when I first heard of the ruling that the barn door was now open and all kinds of mischief would ensue. That echoed the eloquent and biting dissent issued by Justive Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (the entire 35 page dissent is reproduced here) http://www.thewire.com/politics/2014/06/read-justice-ginsburgs-passionate-35-page-dissent-in-the-hobby-lobby-decision/373703/

Two things about the decision disturb me.

First, though the Supreme Court’s opinion limits its effect to closely held corporations, in practice 90% of American corporations are closely held. That does not mean they are small. As Ginsburg pointed out such giants as Cargill and Mars are closely held. She did not mention Koch Industries but it is in that category, too. These corporations employ millions of people. The potential for any or all of them to invoke “religious beliefs” as a wedge…nay a cudgel…to exempt themselves from laws is immense.

Two, even if the ruling is narrowly applied a plethora of lawsuits are sure to follow asserting some form of exemption or other which may effectively overburden the federal court system so much that real life cases with real life issues involving real life facts instead of mythical fantasies will bring unwieldy delays in resolving important matters.

Now I will admit what I foresee in the previous paragraph is very speculative. I have read opinions by those of far greater legal scholarship than I whose forecast is nearly identical. But perhaps beyond an initial flurry of litigation the issue may cool off. Only time will tell. (Oh, what a grand old cliche, eh?)

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has written that Hobby Lobby is a company liberals should love. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/opinion/sunday/ross-douthat-a-company-liberals-could-love-.html?_r=0

There are, however, exceptions: companies that still have a sense of business as a moral calling, which can be held up as examples to shame the bottom-liners.

One such company was hailed last year by the left-wing policy website Demos “for thumbing its nose at the conventional wisdom that success in the retail industry” requires paying “bargain-basement wages.” A retail chain with nearly 600 stores and 13,000 workers, this business sets its lowest full-time wage at $15 an hour, and raised wages steadily through the stagnant postrecession years. (Its do-gooder policies also include donating 10 percent of its profits to charity and giving all employees Sunday off.) And the chain is thriving commercially — offering, as Demos put it, a clear example of how “doing good for workers can also mean doing good for business.”

Of course I’m talking about Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned craft store…

While I cannot dispute the good aspects of Hobby Lobby’s business as laid out by Douthat, he conveniently fails to distinguish that the setting of pay, store hours and the like is within the natural realm of any business. On the other hand interference with the private sex lives of its employees (interestingly only the female ones) by denying them the access to some parts of health care that should be of concern only between them and their doctors does not fit within this “moral” base of business practices.

Of import the positive qualities of which Douthat speaks affect 100% of the company’s employees, whereas the contraceptive issue affects only some of them.

But lest you want to say “Hey, cool it. Hobby Lobby may not be perfect but its heart is in the right place” I would reply, Hold your tongue.

For you see the company and its president, Steve Green, have a more complete and dangerous agenda than  mere denial of access to some forms of birth control.

How would you like your local public schools to force Christian education, with a Bible based curriculum, on your children (or really anyone’s children)?

That is what Green has proposed and gotten at least partially passed in Mustang, Oklahoma. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/10/1313048/–Hobby-Lobby-long-term-goal-Mandate-4-Year-Bible-Curriculum-that-HL-writes-in-Public-Schools?detail=facebook

As of right now the course is an elective but per Steve Green…

We’re working on 4 year public school bible curriculum.  The first year will be a summary of all three of those section. It’s history, it’s impact and it’s story.  Then the next 3 years is going in depth in each of those — a year for the history, a year for the impact and a year for the story — in some order… The nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. . . . If we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary … We were looking – uh- we — we were talking – – discussed a college curriculum but it’s no — we really want to get — be into the – um – high school level because we want to reach as many as possible.  Someday, I would argue, it should be mandated.  Here’s a book that’s impacted our world, unlike any other, and you’re not gonna teach it? There’s — there’s something wrong with that.”

Too, at the urging of Green and his spokesman “Ashleigh” when the School Board met to consider the proposal it may not have had a proper quorum and definitely not all members attended the meeting was private. This may be illegal under Oklahoma’s Sunshine Law.

The Oklahoma County prosecutor said the move — which involved the board leaving its base in Canadian County and traveling to Oklahoma City — could create a potential violation if it is proven to be a deliberate attempt to go around laws that require government bodies to meet openly. “Even if there’s an out-of-county board, if they come here and meet in an attempt to circumvent the Open Meetings Act, just because they’ve met in a place that’s not routine, doesn’t mean they circumvent their requirements for meetings,” Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said. ”If someone is going to that great of length to avoid quorum, it sounds like they’re being pretty darn careful.” Boards can meet without a quorum present, Prater said, but no one at one meeting can be present at the other to give information to the other members, and no action can be taken by the members. Green was present at both meetings April 14, as was McDaniel. Others present for both include members of the curriculum design team and curators from the Green-backed Museum of the Bible. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20140521-oklahoma-school-board-members-met-privately-with-hobby-lobby-president-on-bible-class.ece

Mustang Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel had this to say about the wayward meeting.

“This was something that we wanted to be able to have conversation about and ask questions. If we have the media and the public coming into Hobby Lobby headquarters with us, that can just be confusing and awkward since we’re all seeing it for the first time,” McDaniel said in an interview. “My thought was, ‘Hey, let’s hold off on having a public meeting until we see a little more.”

That is a crock. A public meeting is required precisely so the media and public can be present. It should be clear from this news and Hobby Lobby’s actions that they are not undertaken as a matter of conscience but as steps towards a theocracy.

Can we trust Oklahomans to resist the urge to create a religious state, or at least a quasi religious state? I’d Sooner guess “No” though the voters in the state were quick to approve a constitutional amendment in 2010 that banned Shariah law.

Looks like it depends on which side  your ritual bread is buttered.

And I am speaking my conscience.

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