Does a Christian White-Supremacist Business Have the "Religious Freedom" to Discriminate?
A Hobby Lobby store is seen on June 30, 2014 in Plantation, Florida
The slide towards American theocracy was nudged one more step forward by the 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 as:
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 complete dismantlement of the liberal consensus politics of the post World War II 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.