Sunday, July 06, 2014

Narrow, Religious & Business Exemptions?

By  Gary Berg-Cross

In its Hobby Lobby case decision the supremely, un-supreme court approved (rammed down our throat?) yet again another religious exemptions….for business.  It is yet another activist judge fallout from a Clinton era, federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act  (RFRA) passed by Congress to “protect individuals' religious freedoms.”  OK you have to now
translate “individual” to “company boss’s” (with firm religious beliefs).  And it’s supposedly just for contraception, that special religious sensitive area of human life.  It’s a religious liberty according to Justice Alito who saw boss liberty as in danger. Bosses with religious convictions, it seems to some, are under siege and feeling less free. They need some protection from this big, insensitive, secular government that is intruding on their exercise of belief. 

One may ask about the protection of employees, but this intrusion and harm seemed not to trouble Alito. His position seems to be something like “side effects are NOT going to happen if I say they won't happen.” There’ no explanation beyond that. No more reasoning about why this doesn’t open a door to something more. Justice Ginzburg could see some likely downside:


"The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage"

And she offered some rationale why the ruling seems unreasonable:

"Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community."


On the potential slippery slope we have quickly learned that “Other corporations are going to jump in and take advantage of this I assume and say, ‘well wait a minute, our corporation doesn’t like this or our fundamental founders of our corporation doesn’t like that.’  Based on that, we should be able to opt out of provisions of Obamacare also and get away from that for our employees,” Analyst Greg Skordas

As widely noted this ruling was dressed up as one of those narrow decisions, but it seems to me more like another camel’s business-and-religion-friendly nose under the secular tent.  The rulings words say that it applies only to closely held private or companies whose owners have “deeply held” religious objections to certain forms of contraception. How narrow is that? It depends on understanding terms like closely held.  How many of US companies might fall into this category?  Well mom and pops qualify, but so might a company employing 10,000 people if held by a family of 5. One notes that Hobby Lobby itself has 600 stores with about 30,000 employees. They aren’t the biggest either.  Mars Inc., the family-owned candy giant, takes in $33 billion in revenues and has about 72,000 employees. Closely held Cargill Inc. takes in more than $136 billion in revenue and has about 140,000 employees. Indeed, roughly 90% of all companies in the U.S. are closely held, according to a 2000 study by the Copenhagen Business School. And they account for up to 50% of business. So there is a sneaky scope here despite what it is called.  What’s going on?


We've seen this type of opening before, although people have a short memory, the current problem has a long history. The spate of court decisions seems like part of incremental trend to slowing, but actively turn laws in a very business and religious faith friendly direction.  Certainly is friendly to those who are anti-choice. As Vox notedsince 2010, states have moved aggressively to restrict access to abortion and taken new steps to defund family planning programs.“ The wave of changes seems unprecedented and some see its roots in an:

unholy alliance of conservative greed, reactionary politicians and oppressive religious fanatics, which has a pinnacle of power in the Supreme Court, 

The core of conservative justices we have now seem more like a gaggle of politicians in judicial clothing that have slumped into shallower and shallower thinking in the service of some growing solstice of ideology.

One way of understanding this trend and its Supreme Court connection is to go back to lobbyist
& Nixon appointed justice
Lewis F. Powell (see an earlier blog on Powell and Corporate Blueprints). This is a pre-Bork time but some of the politicization & hidden agendas we see in the court today goes back to Powell’s detailed plan, formalized in a secret 8 pg. memo entitled “Attack of American Free Enterprise System.” This was written to activate and engage the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The message then was familiar now, “become more aggressive in molding politics and law in the US.”  This is the aggression we see in increasingly polarized & politicized elements of our society. The consensus view is that the Powell memo, together with efforts by other proto-neocons, like Jewish Conservative Irving Kristol, united Chamber-types, reactionaries and Wall Street plutocrats crystallized an ideological vision that was emerging in early neocon circles. With this type of money and well placed backers the result established a opaque cabal of right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Accuracy in Academe, and Fox News. They in turn provided the ideological seeds, political cover & groundwork for these religio-corporatist movements that this type of Supreme Court grows out of. They can all be traced directly to subversive spirit & full-spectrum methods outlined in the Powell blueprint manifesto against progressive values, secularism, & the American left.

So in June, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that, under RFRA, corporations counting as people - their sincere religious belief that “life begins at conception" also get protection.

In other words “Freedom for Bosses' Religious Beliefs.” We have to stay tuned and alert. Sincerely secularly but also politically-astutely alert.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent colummn, Gary. Hobby Lobby is one of the worst rulings the SCOTUS ever defecated. It is interesting that the ruling is based on the 1993 RFRA act that Congress passed to try to remedy the mess made by Scalia's 1990 ruling in Oregon v Smith, which denied religious liberty rights to two Native Americans. Scalia cast the deciding vote in Hobby Lobby, which means that Scalia is OK with denying rights to people he disagrees with but not OK with rights he disapproves of. He should get the highest award for sheer brazen hypocrisy.

Hobby Lobby privileged the opinions of bosses over the very real religious liberty, rights of conscience and health claims of women employees.

Edd Doerr (