Monday, June 30, 2014

What if a Muslim Company Used the 'Hobby Lobby' Decision to Impose Its Religious Values on White Christian Employees?

The slide towards American theocracy was nudged one more step forward by today's Supreme Court decision in support of the "freedom" of corporations with "religious" beliefs to restrict the rights of their employees. In essence, religious "beliefs" trump the obligations, rights, and responsibilities that come with being members of the polity and a broader political community. 

The NY Times details the logic of the theocrats here:
The 5-to-4 decision, which applied to two companies owned by Christian families, opened the door to challenges from other corporations to many laws that may be said to violate their religious liberty. 
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the court’s five more conservative justices, said a federal religious-freedom law applied to for-profit corporations controlled by religious families. He added that the requirement that the companies provide contraception coverage imposed a substantial burden on the companies’ religious liberty. He said the government could provide the coverage in other ways.
The dissent offers up this chilling observation:
On that point, Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said the court’s decision “is bound to have untoward effects” in other settings. 
“The court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood,” Justice Ginsburg wrote, “invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths.”
The corporateocracy and the 1 percent are using the tricks, smoke, and mirrors of "religious faith" to expand their power and protections from civil authority and the social compact. 

The tactic is Orwellian and dystopian. 

Alas, if corporations are indeed "people"--an insult to the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution which was put in place to protect the rights of newly freed black slaves--then their behavior is sociopathic. The sociopath will lie, dissemble, and exploit others for his or her own gain because that is their essential nature. 

There are many complications that will arise from the Supreme Court's "Hobby Lobby" decision.
The language of "religious liberty" and "free enterprise" are deified in American political culture and discourse. Those words are blinding and disorienting; therefore, they are also concepts that are not critically interrogated. 

For example, "religious liberty" and "free enterprise" were used to justify slavery, as well as Jim and Jane Crow. The move towards privatized schools, "urban academies", and publicly funded religiously based secondary and primary education are the direct heirs of the "freedom academies" that whites used as a means to resist integration and the Black Freedom Struggle in the South and elsewhere. 

[I wonder how many African-Americans and others who support school privatization are aware of that ugly history and the intersection between neoliberalism and white supremacy in the present?]

In practice, the language of religious liberty and free enterprise are in many ways antithetical to a true and expansive view of freedom, liberty, and civil rights. 

The Roberts and Scalia court is operating under an assumption that Christianity is the United States' semi-official religion and that it should be legislated and protected in a way that other faiths are not. This is, of course, a misreading of the Constitution--despite what the deranged members of the Fox News Christian Evangelical Dominionist American public would like to believe.

Unintended consequences may lay bare the hypocrisy of the Right-wing and its agents on the Supreme Court. 

How would conservatives and their agents respond if a company with Islamic beliefs (however defined) decided to impose its religious values on white, Christian, American employees? 

Sharia hysteria would spread in such a way as to make the present day-to-day Islamophobia of the Right-wing echo chamber appear benign and muted by comparison. 

What if a Black cultural nationalist organization such as the Nation of Islam or the Black Israelites claimed that they possessed a "religious freedom" to actively discriminate against white people in the workplace or elsewhere? 

The White Right would explode with claims of "reverse discrimination" and "black racism".

The end game of the Supreme Courts' surrender to the theocrats and religious plutocrats could be the dismantlement of the liberal consensus politics of the post World War 2 era. 

Consider the following questions.

Is there a "religious freedom" to practice housing discrimination if you are a member of a white supremacist "Christian" organization that leases or sells property? Does "religious freedom" for corporate entities trump anti-discrimination laws governing gender, sexuality, disability status, or race?

The beautiful thing about religious faith is its malleability and vagueness. "Faith" is a belief which cannot be proven by ordinary or empirical means: this trait makes religion dangerous and disruptive to a functioning democratic-liberal polity. Religion can be anything to anyone.

The Framers understood this fact. Thus, their shrewd choice to separate church and state in the Constitution.

Movement conservatism is no longer a centrist force, one interested in stability or "tradition". Its members are radicals who want to fundamentally destroy and transform the standing bargains and norms which have guided American society and politics for decades. 

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court, what was once the United States' most respected political institution, is soiling itself by surrendering to the American Right's radical agenda. 


Buddy H said...

Good point about religious liberty and jim crow. All it takes is a few bad apples on the supreme court. You're right, if for-profit enterprises want to go all religious on us, then maybe they should obey Luke 18:22. ("Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and... have treasure in heaven")

I've always hated this system of employers being responsible for employees' health insurance. When my wife went into labor with our first son, I was employed by a small company whose owners deducted a huge percentage from my salary, but then didn't bother paying the insurance premiums, instead using the money trying to keep their dying business afloat (as well as on expensive wristwatches and luxury cars for their daughter, who "temped" one summer and did nothing). For years after the company folded, we received calls from collection agencies (representing the hospital, the anesthesiologist, the physicians) ... It was a nightmare. The company hid behind Chapter 11.

I've also seen hideous invasions of privacy. At my last job, one co-worker was a woman who feuded with our manager. My co-worker was also seeking professional help for emotional issues. This manager went around to everyone and told us "Look out for V___, she's switched antidepressants!" This is how we found out she was getting mental health treatment. Grotesque.

I've always hated that folks cling to shit jobs out of fear of losing health insurance; that this is something bad bosses hold over our heads ("You won't get a raise, but you've got health insurance"). I thought we're supposed to be a country of entrepreneurs. How many people would quit their bullshit jobs and launch small businesses if we had a single payer or medicare for all?

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I'm with you, Chauncey. The Christian fundamentalists in the Council for National Policy in league with their billionaire backers and funding are moving us towards a theocracy. White supremacy in this country, with the outcome of genocide towards Native Americans, and the enslavement/torture of Africans was built on a foundation of Christianity combined with capitalism. After the Civil War, the Re-Enslavement of African Americans was built on white supremacy, Protestant fundamentalism, and capitalism. White supremacy and Protestant fundamentalism were the bedrock of opposition to inter-racial marriage, and opposition to inter-racial marriage was the bedrock of opposition to school integration or housing integration. And now, we allow Protestant fundamentalism as wielded by closely-held corporations--which is 80 percent of the corporations in this country, according to commentary on Democracy Now this morning--to discriminate and harm women. And you are right, if another religious group did this to white Christian fundamentalists, there would be screaming and hollering and guys grabbing their guns all over America. Just remember this, and there are several sources I can give anyone, the Christian Right believes that this nation was founded by white fundamentalist Christian males and all the rest of us--irrespective or race, ethnicity, gender, orientation etc etc--are here as guests. And, there are multiple sources I can provide for their belief that the only religious rights upheld in the Constitution are those of fundamentalist Christians.

When I heard the decision this morning, I felt like my mind was being raped. To give corporations with a fundamentalist religious orientation the power to dictate behaviors and thoughts--what is proper private behavior--is to lose your country.

I really don't know what country this is anymore. It certainly is not the country I thought I was defending for twenty years.

chauncey devega said...

I can't wait for our podcast chat. Do you think that Joe Q. Public is not ignorant and not seeing how the unholy alliance of the 1 percent, corporateocracy and religious fundies are ruining the country by using anti-democratic means (the courts, subverting voting, inside lobbyists and donations, the idea that money equals speech, etc.)?

Or do they know and just don't care because they are sympathetic on some level to these changes?

chauncey devega said...

The law doesn't equal justice. As I said before, Congress is ruined, the Court is no longer respected, and the presidency is in ruins. We are in a crisis where political legitimacy has been destroyed by corporatists using racism and religion to destroy "democracy". Feels like Star Wars Episode 3.

chauncey devega said...

Simple solution--healthcare is a human right that should be free to all. And the promise of insurance, as you detailed it above, is a way of keeping labor bounded and in shackles.

Justin M. White said...

Don't want to spark a nerd-war, but that would assume that Ep. 3 showed any battle-scars of a violent revolution at all. Political machinations in the film=excellent. Showing people having a reason to go along with it... meh.

Otherwise, completely with you.

chauncey devega said...

I am thinking of Palps running the show the whole time and the great speech to the Senate.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Wasn't Christian Supremacy a precursor to white supremacy?

Those conservative's are deranged, their books are full of lives. They want to legalize discrimination.

Miles_Ellison said...

This is the Christian equivalent of Sharia law. It's mind-boggling that some of these people are on the Supreme Court. It's equally mind-boggling that the justices chosen by the Party of Personal Responsibility think that corporations are people, but shouldn't be held responsible for anything. This is why a public option was needed. It should also be a clarion call for single-payer health care. It should also serve as a big flashing signal for any sentient intelligent female (or anyone else) to not vote for Republicans. Ever. Rolls of toilet paper with the Constitution printed on it are in the Gift Shop. Hope you enjoyed your visit.

Gable1111 said...

The Klan considered itself a "Christian" organization.

Gable1111 said...

"According to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients."

I find this statement absolutely incredible. In a sane society, basing such a far reaching legal decision on what someone claims to "believe," even though that belief is factually incorrect, as the belief in that statement, would not even be attempted, let alone tolerated.

This is not the first time the conservative partisans on the court used the concept of belief to rule in favor of their political soul mates. Remember Bush v. Gore? In it, they said, in effect that, petitioner Bush "believed" that he won and therefore any attempt to count all the votes would cause him irreparable harm?

Here are my questions:

Who's to decide what constitutes a valid religious belief? For example, can I as a Rastafarian say that I promote the smoking of ganja in my business during lunch hours, even though said activity is illegal? Can an employee who complains about said smoking be told that the Supreme Court says my belief trumps their rights?

And what if I am a Muslim who says that my religion is steadfast the consumption of any pork products on the premises of my business. Will the the five partisans on the court uphold my religious belief in line with today's decision, and affirm I have the right not to have pork in any form consumed in and around my place of business by employees?

The conservative white supremacy complex has finally found a way back to Jim Crow, and it is via "religious belief." It is a canard and nothing more than an excuse to take society back a century, or even more. What happens when some Klan business owner cites the Bible about Ham being cursed, and therefore he has a right to discriminate against blacks? Is that "belief" also covered?

Here's how insane this is: how do you determine before the court, whether a "belief" is religious, and is codified in said religion?

Instead of lawyers arguing before this insane court, we'll have preachers handling snakes making arguments based on their interpretations of the bible rather than law books. It will be a fitting end for just how ignorant and hateful this society is becoming.

Stephen Kearse said...

Do you have any recommended readings regarding these "freedom academies?" I'd like to learn more about them.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I wrote a chapter in which I argue that Thomas Frank is not only wrong, but he has derailed progressive thinking about the Right. Frank's argument is that conservatives vote against abortion and gay rights, and get tax breaks for the rich, etc. His view is that conservatives are conned to vote against their own economic self-interest. But, he is completely wrong. Even in his book, What's the Matter with Kansas?, he ignored his own evidence to reach the wrong conclusion.

On the broad right-wing, God is first and foremost and their own cynical, unique interpretations of the Bible means that the Bible provides answers to all questions and issues. This is what scholars call the right-wing having a "biblical worldview."

Thus, for adherents or members on the broad right-wing, politics, economics, and the social spheres merge into one--much like Islam. On economics, the Market is God, thus they favor tax breaks for the rich, no regulations on business; On politics, the state must be subordinated to God and God's law must trump man-made law, thus there is no separation of church and state, and Christianity is given primacy and sole protection. On social issues, white fundamentalist Christian males must be at the top of all hierarchies or institutions.

Democrats have the hardest time conveying this because it looks like, or can be made to look like, an attack on religion.

Democrats address these issues singularly, for example, by emphasizing that the GOP is waging a "war on women," or that the GOP is opposed to "voting rights." But, the Democrats do not articulate their own worldview of government, their own worldview of values, their own worldview of inclusion, their own worldview regarding corporations. You get my drift. The broad right-wing with their "think" tanks and media broadcast a worldview, one that is secular and religious in rhetoric but the same substantively. The Democrats respond with separate policies for separate constituencies.

And, we all come to this problem with different perceptions of salience. For some, the black-white divide is salient; for some, the men-women divide is salient; for some, the gay-straight divide is salient; for some, the science versus faith divide is salient. But, no matter what salience motivates your alarm, we are all victims in their America. They have designated us, we all, all of us, the enemy, the agents of satan.

I may be superficially nominally "white," but my atheism makes me as much their enemy as someone advocating for civil rights or human rights or reparations or reproductive rights or marriage rights or immigration rights.

Of course, it is not solely my atheism. I cannot remember which Freedom Movement leader I was reading, but she wrote that she advocated radical change, radical in the meaning of getting to the root of the problem. The root of the problem in America was/is slavery, and race, and at the root of both both was/is Christianity and capitalism. I can see, I think, a little more clearly how race, class, gender, orientation, and free thinking intersect.

ann said...

I think this is yet another example of people with power doing whatever they feel like at the moment. It knows no bounds. I see profs in disciplines that are left of center supporting conservative agendas (such as standardized assessment) in order to hold on to their jobs and god knows whatever motivations. What is so frightening about it to me is that it is not contained to any one ideology.

joe manning said...

Conservatives aren't voting against their own interests they are opting for fascism.

joe manning said...

Conservative hubris has increased exponentially during the last three weeks. Right after the SC decision the libertarians on my fb page went rabid and ugly having gotten progressively more so of late. Movement conservatism is over extending, launching trial balloons to see how much they can get away with without alienating everyone outside their narrow base. The SC decision was a safe bet because it only effects a small number of women. But as Ginsberg noted it opens a can of worms. I don't see the divine right of corporatocracy getting off the ground.

worddiva said...

Agreed. I didn't read Thomas Frank's book (although I have read some of his articles), but I've heard him discuss the book's themes, and I immediately disagreed with it. I think conservatives are indeed voting what they would believe are in their best interests. Surely, affluent white conservatives are voting in their best interests, i.e. keeping most, if not all, of America's resources for themselves. Low-income and working class white conservatives are being dealt a bait-and-switch that is just now coming home to roost. I am presently reading Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, and she talks about the "racial bribe" given to low-income and working class white folks. The bribe allowed them to be treated a little bit better than people of color so as to keep them from uniting with POC to overthrow the capitalist elites. So working class whites opted to vote against government programs that help everyone (rather than just help white folks). Now, because economic collapse has hurt them as well, they find themselves in need of the very same programs they demonized and helped shred all these years and see that the safety net isn't so much there for them anymore.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

still does:

"We are a conservative Christian group,” Walters said of the KKK. Walters insists that the KKK is not a hate group, saying, “I know we have a bad name, but it’s not that way no more.” For instance, he asked, “When was the last time a black or Hispanic got hung on a tree?”

traindoc said...

Who cares what a Muslim Company does? I avoid them

chauncey devega said...

Hot mess. Does that sum it up?

chauncey devega said...

You most certainly have read it, but Bartel's take down of Frank--who I think is more right than wrong--is epic. Can't fight the math gods.

SabrinaBee said...

They know. They don't care because they themselves are Christians, willing to tolerate this behavior. So long as it does not go too far, a la Inquisition. They conveniently put out of mind the terrible history of their religion having some degree of control on the masses. As you point out in your article, everybody gets something from this alliance, which covers both domestic affairs and those abroad.

joe manning said...


joe manning said...

My friend asked Frank at a book reading if he thought that "they" were building an American fascist movement and he replied "yes" and turned on his heel not wanting to elaborate, probably because at the time he had aspirations to be a pundit. What's the Matter with Kansas is required reading.

SAJP said...

Great article--articulate and naturally clear-headed. Thank you!

chauncey devega said...

Thank you for a kind, articulate, and naturally clear-headed comment...

I hope you continue to follow and read what we are trying to do here on WARN.