comments_image Comments

Scalia's Major Screw Up: How SCOTUS Just Gave Liberals a Huge Gift

With an otherwise awful Hobby Lobby ruling, right-wing judges just said I don't have to pay for warfare! Here's why.

Photo Credit: via youtube


Before a recent visit by Justice Scalia to Wesleyan University, I (a lowly research fellow) gained an invitation to a banquet in his honor by employing a typical Quaker mix of idealism, stubbornness and low cunning. Once there, I thanked the eminent jurist for his liberal ruling in Crawford v. Washington, concerning the right to confront witnesses in criminal proceedings. This remark drew from him the quip that he ought to be a pinup in every public defender’s office in the nation, because sometimes he was forced by clearly established constitutional principles to rule in favor of people he couldn’t stand.

With this in mind, I’m celebrating him for yet another socio-political gift to progressives and suggesting that he doesn’t need to wear a thong — a modest bathing costume of 1910 vintage will do — in the poster religious pacifists like myself will want now that he and his brethren have ruled for Hobby Lobby et al., to the effect that private persons/corporations do not have to fund activities that violate their faith — such as the use of an IUD by an employee who may not even share that faith.

The upshot of the ruling is that Hobby Lobby and other businesses with conservative religious owners do not need to pay for what the Affordable Care Act mandates as full coverage for family planning. The public interest in affordable and accessible healthcare is not compelling enough to override the private belief that contraceptive methods including (but apparently not limited to) the IUD and the morning-after pill are murder. Well, I’m a pacifist, and I say that warfare is murder, and I don’t want to pay for it; and in recent decades the public interest in my paying for it hardly looks compelling.

Let’s go back to 2012, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for the purchase of insurance was constitutional as a tax, to fund the public good of healthcare. The issue necessarily now shifts to whether an individual or a privately held company has to pay a tax for anything religiously abhorrent that is less essential, or only as essential, to the common good as women’s ability to avoid unwanted pregnancies, including from rape.

My husband, Tom, and I have been dancing gleefully with our Corgi Bessie in our modest home every evening since the Hobby Lobby ruling, because it’s clear that the conservative majority of justices has written itself into a corner in which it cannot refuse religious exemptions from selected tax obligations. The same preponderance of Supremes will have no way out of ruling, for example, that I and fellow Quakers (plus the Amish, Mennonites and others) do not have to pay the roughly 20 percent of our taxes that goes toward supporting the U.S. military. I’m firing up little Bessie with talk of her own backyard goat herd, and my husband (not a Quaker) with the promise of a 1992 Jaguar and a weekend at the Saratoga racetrack once my tax savings come through.

Why wouldn’t they? The conscientious objection of religious pacifists to supporting the military goes back for centuries. Just to instance my own sect, the Quaker Peace Testimony (citing the New Testament) dates from 1660, and over the years many Quakers were persecuted for their antiwar witness. George Washington had a passel of them confined in punishing conditions as draft refusers during the French and Indian War, and he admired their fortitude.

Today, some Quakers send the government only the non-military portion of their taxes owed. They attach letters explaining why, and suffer crippling monetary penalties, confiscations from their savings accounts, and sometimes the loss of their homes.