Once again, in an obvious display of their ideological prejudice, five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, the usual suspects, have engaged in legal sophistry to stretch interpretations of law to fit theology. The result is as ugly as Antonin Scalia squeezing into a Speedo.
The quickly infamous Hobby Lobby decision, which says that closely held, for-profit corporations need not comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act where it offends the corporate owners’ religious beliefs, not only expands the asinine assertion that corporations are people, but also further erodes the separation of church and state doctrine that has helped keep this nation from descending into the kind of religious mayhem suffered in many parts of the world.
If corporations are people, has anyone ever seen one in a church pew, or kneeling on a prayer rug facing Mecca? Corporations are legal fictions affording their owners certain liability limits. When the law says that companies cannot discriminate on race, gender or sexual preference, they do not get a pass because their owners claim it offends their religious principles — at least not until now. Now, the five Supreme Court deacons have ordained that certain corporations get conscientious-objector status exempting them from laws that conflict with the owners’ religious beliefs.
Following the logic in this decision, a Muslim-owned corporation could refuse to hire or do business with anyone who imbibes in alcohol. Christian Scientists could argue that corporations they own should be exempt from providing medical benefits altogether. Scientologists could refuse to provide psychiatric benefits.
The list of silliness goes on and on, but that is the circus that the five Supreme Court clowns have brought to the big top.
This is the second Supreme Court ruling this year that has breeched the church and state separation doctrine. The first coming in the Town of Greece vs. Galloway case in which the court’s same five Christian justices blessed the practice by local governments of opening public sessions with prayer. That ruling got the nose of religion under the tent. The Hobby Lobby ruling got the whole head in the tent.
Jubilant Christians have celebrated gleefully over these rulings, but all religious folks, including Christians, should be uneasy about this trend. Any Christian who believes that breaking down the wall between government and religion is a good thing, that it will lead society onto a path of righteousness, restoring traditional family values, ending abortion, teaching Biblical fairy tales instead of science, condemning homosexuality and saving souls for Jesus, or who believe they will be blessed by God for their efforts — maybe an extra harp in heaven — should pause a moment and consider the ramifications of insisting on religion in public policy.
If there is anything history has taught us about religious beliefs it is that they become multitudinously denominational. Within every major religion there are many sects and cults with diverse and strongly held theological interpretations. The vehemence of religious certainty has often resulted in discrimination, oppression and violence. We need only look at what is going on in the Middle East, India and Africa to understand the homicidal volatility of religious conviction.
Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan are chilling examples of how individual freedom and human rights are crushed when government and religion are joined in unholy matrimony.
Ireland for centuries was a virtual Catholic state whose most vulnerable faithful were preyed upon and abused by the clergy. Relatively recently, Northern Ireland suffered horrible homicidal violence as two different brands of Christianity savaged each other for decades.
America was initially settled by followers of many different Christian denominations all seeking to escape the oppression, discrimination and violence they suffered in mostly Christian-versus-Christian conflict in Europe. Although the founding principles of the United States sought to ensure religious freedom and prevent religious conflict, it did not always succeed. Mormons were severely persecuted in the early years of their faith as were other sects deemed heretically odd by the more established Christian population.
As late as the 1960s, Catholicism was regarded with suspicion by America’s Protestant Christian majority. John F. Kennedy’s Catholic faith was a major issue in his run for the presidency.
The essential evil of religion occurs when its followers believe they have the ultimate truth and that their theology is absolutely inerrant. Consequently, everyone else is not only perceived as wrong, but also as dangerous heretics or pathetic infidels. This type of irrational certainty allows the unquestioning faithful to disregard any information, facts or opinions that conflict with their own. It arrests intellectual development and addles judgment. Religion like this is basically a psychological disorder, difficult to treat, and requiring careful containment to limit harming the general population.
So, while the U.S. has enjoyed freedom of religion, more critically, it has enjoyed freedom from religion. Historically, with several deplorable exceptions, Americans have not butchered or oppressed each other over which version of some deity they worship.
Ironically, those five Supreme Court deacons are gradually jeopardizing that religious peace and freedom by continuing to allow religion to infect public policy. Religion is best quarantined at home and in the church, not contaminating government.