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'Hobby Lobby' Decision Could Rewrite The Definition of Religious Freedom
Mon Mar 24, 2014
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Hobby Lobby store in Stow, Ohio
On Tuesday Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on what has become to be known as "The Hobby Lobby" case. I may be accused of being too hyperbolic, but I believe this case has the potential to redefine the concept of religious freedom for years to come. Despite its creative name, it should be understood that this case has the potential to rewrite the definition of religious freedom.
Hobby Lobby, a private company, is challenging the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate by claiming it violates their First Amendment religious beliefs and that they should be exempt from such a mandate. The Obama Administration has already exempted churches and religious institutions from this mandate, but has not allowed privately held companies to do the same. This case has the potential to upend all of that and allow private corporations to discriminate against their employees under the guise of religious freedom.
The court hearing this case is one that President George W Bush shaped in his image. The Roberts court came about after President Bush was handed one hell of a golden opportunity.
John Roberts was initially appointed to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor after she announced her retirement in July, 2005. That was changed after Chief Justice William Rehnquist died during Roberts confirmation process and Bush suddenly had two open seats to fill. An unpopular President now had two open Supreme Court seats and a Senate majority that was more than happy to do his bidding. What else would he do other than put forward Samuel Alito, yet another religious zealot who had the potential to reshape the entire fabric of American society?
Once these two gentlemen were accustomed to their position on the court, they started reshaping it in their own image. The Roberts Court started breaking down the Great Society piece by piece and put the death nail in it with their Citizens United ruling. This ruling will likely play a large role in the upcoming 'Hobby Lobby' hearings. Since corporations are now considered people with freedom of speech rights, is it that difficult to assume that these "people" have all the religious freedom protections that actual human beings have? This is what the court will be debating on Tuesday.
This case has the potential to impact far more citizens than employees of Hobby Lobby. If the court writes a broad ruling in Hobby Lobby's favor, there is a real possibility that the court will usher in a new era of sanctioned discrimination in America in the guise of religious freedom. The ruling could give thousands of employers a reason to change the benefits they offer and even sanction anti-gay hiring practices in the name of religious freedom.
As in most cases, this will most likely come down what Justice Kennedy says. He is considered the most moderate, a term I use very loosely, of the courts conservative bloc. If he votes in favor of this blatant discrimination, then we will have a big problem. One can only hope that he will listen to the millions of non-religious people in this country who don't want a private employer to force their religious beliefs on them.
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