How GOP Oligarchs and the Christian Right Are Hiding Behind the 1st Amendment to Ram Through Their Political Agenda
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Vince Clements
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Once again, the First Amendment has become the latest refuge for America’s scoundrels and oligarchs: Republicans who only want to follow rules they like are declaring that their speech and religious freedoms are being violated unless they get their way.
This fraudulent flag-waving is unfolding in two high-profile fights. The first is the latest front in the ongoing war on Obamacare, where the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear two suits brought by Christian business owners who don’t want to include birth control in employee health plans.
The second is the GOP’s effort to block anti-corruption campaign finance laws. The GOP is screaming censorship after Obama’s Treasury Department proposed new rules that might deter political operators like Karl Rove from using non-profit charities as front groups for attacks on specific candidates—which goes beyond promoting issues.
In both instances, the scoundrels contend that the First Amendment lets them do what they want, and any contrary view—such as new laws or regulations from the Obama administration—is an affront to their fundamental freedom to do as they please.
The Obamacare challenge came out of dozens of suits filed soon after the Affordable Care Act became law. The Christian Right objected to including birth control options in health plans. The administration’s response was to issue rules noting that the minimum coverage standards for businesses, which included a full range of reproductive care, differed from houses of worship—which were given more latitude on including birth control.
However, the Christian-owned businesses whose challenges are coming to the Supreme Court argue that corporations share the same religious rights as citizens under the First Amendment. This is the latest effort by the Right to treat corporations as people with a complete complement of constitutional rights.
In the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling in 2010, the Republican-appointed majority expanded the political speech rights of corporations, allowing them to spend money in certain political campaigns as if they were voters—which they’re not. This latest claim of corporate religious freedom could be even more significant, Lyle Denniston, who has covered the Supreme Court for a half-century recently noted.
“The Court is now poised to decide whether corporations also have a First Amendment right to exercise the freedom of religion, which can be thought of as another form of expression—that is, voicing or acting out one’s personal beliefs,” he wrote. “It may be too early to say so, but a decision by the justices recognizing such a corporate right may make the controversy over the Citizens United ruling pale by comparison.”
On Saturday , the Wall Street Journal editorial page attacked the administration—which created an exception for houses of worship, religious schools, hospitals and charities. In its typical fashion of blurring details to buttress its view, it said, “The radical implication of the White House argument is that the Constitution doesn’t apply to commercial activity.” Their view is the radical one. Of course, the Constitution protects commerce, such as in contracts. But the Bill of Rights primarily protects individual rights.
The people who want to impose their religious beliefs regardless of cost or consequence are complaining not just that their freedom is threatened, but that corporate religious freedom exists, and must be elevated over the rights of people working for them. That’s radical. They conveniently forget that under Obamacare or any health plan, people can decide to take advantage of a medical procedure or not. These unruly Christian soldiers want to do away with that private choice from their employees, and have the audacity to argue their businesses are being deprived of religious liberty under the First Amendment.