Thursday, July 03, 2014

One Court's Opinion

I was making a left turn off of a busy street onto a side street on my bike, when I noticed that a motorist who was trying to turn left onto that busy street from the side street was lurching forward, then stopped short as he noticed me making my way through the intersection. Passing by the driver's side, he rolled down the window and hollered at me, "You are not a car!"
He was right, you know. I was not a car, even though I was afforded many of the same rights and privileges of a motorized vehicle, I was not a car. Nor was I an elephant, but the list of things I wasn't might have become too lengthy to discuss at that particular juncture so I let it pass. It was this interaction, however, that came into mind as I heard about the Supreme Court's ruling on companies opting out of the contraception portion of the Affordable Care Act. It was, at its heart, a reminder of the row over Citizen's United and corporate personhood. These great, big, multi-headed people with more money than most moderately sized single-headed people can now decide which services their employees can access based on their religious beliefs. If you're having trouble with this one, keep reminding yourself that corporations are people and that people have religious beliefs, especially when they have fiscal realities tied to them.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a thirty-five page dissenting opinion, the one that suggested that maybe the majority of her Justice Buddies may have had it wrong: "Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)?  There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts 'out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,' or the sincerity with which an asserted religious belief is held. Indeed, approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude. The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield." 
Or, for the purposes of my metaphor, into a busy intersection.

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