The Christian right in America considers itself one of the most put-upon and persecuted groups in the world. It’s a meme among them that they are under attack, doing the Lord’s work among sinners who want them eradicated like the Romans with their lions. Their unfounded paranoia is risible: white Christian Americans are among the most defended human beings on the planet.
But what they really want is very much worth fighting against: Glassy-eyed, perpetually pregnant women, hobbled in their long dresses, lifetime breeders in an estrogen fog, producing dozens of young’uns to carry on after their impending Christian doomsday.
The alarming news is that these nut-bags apparently now have enough Supreme Court juice to bring to life their fantasy of producing the next generation of paranoid Americans.
The Roberts Court flashed its crazy right-wing underwear in an end-of-season spectacle, as a five-man majority ruled in favor of backward Bible thumpers with loads of money who believe IUDs and Plan B pills kill babies.
Hobby Lobby, owned by the fanatically Christian billionaire Green family of Oklahoma, went to court to wriggle out of the ACA requirement that its employee insurance plan cover four types of contraception—including IUDs and so-called morning after pills—that the Green family and fellow travelers believe cause abortions.
Obstetricians, gynecologists and other medical experts say that Plan B and IUDs prevent fertilization to begin with, but the men of the SCOTUS reliably chose myth, legend, ephemera and holy doctrine over science.
The Court’s three women, needless to say, were not part of this patriarchal majority. Chief dissenter Ruth Bader Ginsburg—who, sadly, must step down as soon as possible to allow Obama to replace her before the 2016 election—wrote, “The owners … and others who believe that life begins at conception regard these four methods as causing abortions, but federal regulations, which define pregnancy as beginning at implantation, do not so classify them.”
No matter. As Kelly Cleland, of Princeton’s Office of Population Research put it, Hobby Lobby and other companies “are really redefining what pregnancy is, and therefore what abortion is.” Her colleague at the OPR, James Trussell, said that either the companies opposing use of emergency contraception “are very stupid, or they don’t believe in science. But there is no other explanation.”
Hobby Lobby is not the only entity to object to the ACA requirement that it cover these types of contraception, it’s just the one with the most money and lawyers. Much of the outrage about this bad decision has focused on the way the court twisted logic and precedent to justify this anti-female decision. It cloaked its ruling in the outrageous notion that corporations have religious rights.
The broader legal issue here is about whether companies can force-feed their religious beliefs to their employees, and whether corporate religious beliefs must be respected the way the law extends such respect to individuals.
The statute on which the case was brought, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was created because the Court chose not to respect a non-Christian religious tradition. In Employment Division v. Smith (1990), two Native Americans who worked as private drug rehab counselors were fired after they ingested peyote as part of religious ceremonies conducted by the Native American Church.
The Court upheld that firing, with radical right-wing Catholic Justice Antonin Scalia opining that to protect the American Indians “would open the prospect of constitutionally required exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind.” The spiritual-minded from right and left came together and Congress passed the RFRA in 1993. In ruling that RFRA covers corporations in the Hobby Lobby case, the court softened its decision by declaring the exemption is strictly limited to “closely held” companies. But the walls of strict limitation were breached just 72 hours later, when the Court, over the objections of female justices, gave evangelical Wheaton College its own emergency stay regarding ACA contraception requirements.
Progressives’ worst-case scenarios in the wake of the ruling appear to be coming true, as a group of “faith leaders” then asked the Obama administration to consider religious exemptions in upcoming LGBT anti-discrimination action involving federal contractors. According to The Atlantic, the group, which includes religious organizations friendly to the Obama administration, reads the Hobby Lobby decision as requiring the government to “show more deference to the prerogatives of religion.”
The fears of progressives are valid, but I think it’s highly unlikely that the high court ruling will ever be expanded to cover religious objections beyond those holy “prerogatives” that limit women’s decisions regarding childbearing. I bet it will not be used to stop gay marriage or allow federal contractors to discriminate against gay employees.
On the contrary, I believe history will show that the religion-based precedents at the Roberts Court will be used only to limit and control women.
Readers hoping to glean the broader motives of the Hobby Lobby litigators should read the excellent investigation by David Corn and Molly Redden at Mother Jones, into just one of the crazy religious right-wingers the Hobby Lobby family has financed.
Down in the Bible Belt, a dirty old man named Bill Gothard ran an outfit called the Institute In Basic Life Principles. Mr. Gothard resigned in March when a website posted the accounts of more than 30 women who accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. One of his accusers said he molested her when she was 17.
According to Mother Jones, Hobby Lobby donated thousands of acres of land and office space to Mr. Gothard’s creepy religious brainwashing camps and seminars all over the South. They include the Institute’s International ALERT Academy, a boot camp where young men train in disaster-response techniques. While there, recruits can’t receive letters, emails or phone calls from women outside their families without written authorization from their parents. They also can only listen to approved music from a list so narrow that even elevator and New Age music are out of bounds.
For girls 15 and older, the academy also runs a program that insists that girls wear skirts “to remain feminine.” The application—under the heading “mental health”—asks girls if they are struggling with “day dreaming,” “fantasy,” or “lustful thoughts.”
Yes, this is the ilk that is defining abortion rights in this country right now. A century from now, if the poor persecuted Christian doomsday preppers of the Hobby Lobby crowd have not managed to turn America into a version of Margaret Atwood’s Republic of Gilead, historians will have a name for this era, with its inexplicable surge of ignorant folklore when it comes to the female body. Those of us fated to live through it can only gird our loins—and stock up on soon-to-be outlawed contraceptives.