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Religious Freedom Just Went Corporate

By The Reverend Published: June 30, 2014

I was wrong in my prediction. There was no deal amongst Republican Justices and more Democratic Justices. But I was correct in predicting a "splitting-the-baby" ruling possibility. John Roberts and his conservative wrecking crew are very careful in their incrementalist approach to moving our oligarchy-nation closer to a fascist-oligarchy one.

The rush of "religious conscience", for-profit companies to a federal court near you will now commence. The Roberts Court has, literally, opened a can of worms.

Incremental religious fascism is what I will call the ruling. You think I'm exaggerating? Go read it yourself. It's argle-bargle on steroids.

"In these cases, the owners of three closely held for profit corporations have sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point."

Read that again slowly. The Court has made a determination that Hobby Lobby, and others, "have sincere Christian beliefs." I wonder how that sincerity evaluation was made, don't you? And how similar determinations will be made in the future, as well as what factors will be used to exclude any for-profit company owners from claiming "religious objection." Will a tribunal of priests, rabbis and pastors make that determination in the future. Or are the secular Justices, mostly Catholic, qualified to operate as our new National Priestly Tribunal. Time will tell.

Chief Justice Roberts has been working a shrewdly calculated incremental game to hand over national control of political campaigns to the wildly-wealthy few......with more soon to come....most likely through the vehicle of Scott Walker's blatant lawlessness. With today's Hobby Lobby ruling, the Activist Roberts Court, which can't even spell the word "precedent", let alone give deference to it, has proven to the American people that they will do whatever it takes to hollow out the Bill of Rights as long as the outcome favors the desires of libertarians and conservatives.

The Conservative Activist Court fig leafed their Hobby Lobby ruling with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. According to the ruling, The RFRA, whose name suggests that religious Americans are somehow, somewhere having their religious freedom taken away from them, prohibits....

"Government (from) substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability" unless the Government "demonstrates that application of the burden to the person, (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of compelling that governmental interest."

The sly conservative Court agreedthe burden of (1) had been met in the Hobby Lobby contraceptive case, but not (2). In effect, the Court told the legislative branch of the United States government 'yes, we agree you have a compelling governmental interest in mandating contraception coverage through Obamacare provisions.....but the way Obamacare was written in regard to this compelling interest was not the "least restrictive means" that the legislative branch could come up with to protect for-profit religious conscience employers.

How should Congress go about finding those "least restrictive means?" The Court, conveniently, doesn't say. Instead, the five Justices argue that..."There are other ways in which Congress or HHS could equally insure that every woman has cost free access to the particular contraceptives at issue here and, indeed, to all FDA approved contraceptives."

But then the argle begins to bargle, so to speak....."HHS has provided no reason why the same system (the one which exempts non-profit, religious entities from compliance) cannot be made available when the owners of for-profit corporations have similar religious objections."

That means that "closely held" for-profit, non-religious businesses have the right to be treated the same way churches, religious institutions, and not-for-profit religious business owners are treated......with special opt-out religious exemptions to law.

The Court tried to pre-emptively shoot down any criticism of it's ruling by suggesting that the ruling did not apply to stuff like "blood transfusions" and other surgeries, procedures or prescriptions which might offend consciences of any for-profit, closely held, not-religious business owner or owners.....but that begs the question....Why not? Wouldn't the Court be willing to issue a similar ruling favoring "conscientious" Jehovah's Witness business owners claiming exemption from ACA mandates to cover blood transfusions? And if not.....why not?

Furthermore, the Activist Roberts Court suggests that today's ruling doesn't apply to large, publicly held business owners. Why the discrimination? Can't CEO's and corporate board members of the largest shareholders of Fortune 500 businesses, which the Court has already ruled are, you know, a person.....have a religious conscience that is capable of being offended? What, precisely, is the distinction?

In a cynically disturbing bit of irony here.....today's ruling, in essence, states that 'hey, Obama has already made exemptions for certain religious groups, etc.....so there's no reason why he can't offer even more concessions to "conscientious objectors." Obama's good faith gesture in bending over backwards making allowances for a variety of religious and tangentially religious entities is, I think. cravenly met by 5 Justices with 'you can do more.'

Regardless of the angle of today's argle-bargle ruling, the net result does not compute. Corporations, by definition, do not have consciences. Human beings have consciences, at least some do. Corporations, closely held or not, are not persons. Corporations are tools humans with consciences use to avoid personal responsibility. And yet, the net result of today's ruling allows for corporate "persons" with "consciences" to overrule any employees right to not be subjected to the religious practices of their employers.

Libertarians and religionists may be hive-fiving today, declaring victory for "religious liberty." But, in reality world, albeit undoubtedly, you know, "sincere", the Court has taken one more incremental step towards a form of pseudo-religious-corporate fascism. .

For those wishing to comment on this post...go here and let me know what you think.

**I wrote my post before reading Justice Ginsburg's dissent. Her dissent can be found via this link.

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