In a letter dated January 1, 1802 Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association discussing a notion for his nation, indivisible under God, that there be “separation of church and state.” He took it to what was called Congress at the time, and it became the foundation for the American people to express their understandings, their intent, and their function under the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. In these clauses, following that 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson, Congress wrote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is a law that is taken very seriously today, all across the land. The words “under God” have been removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. Crosses are taken down from public buildings, Bibles are hidden and prayers are whispered instead of shouted in tragedy because nobody wants to be accused of “establishing religion” or “prohibiting the free exercise” of someone else’s. So what would Thomas Jefferson think today after the most recent United States Supreme Court ruling that clearly blurs the lines of the “separation of church and state.” It is a ruling that was by no means a landslide, as CTV News reports on June 30 that the United States Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 in favor of overhauling President’ Obama’s health care plan, and allowing businesses to exercise religious views when it comes to the provision of free contraceptives for Americans. It was 5 men that made that decision that will affect millions of Americans women. Will this impact your relationship?
It is a topic that has been high on the minds of Americans long before the 2012 Presidential election. It is also a topic high on the minds of Canadians, who know that too often enough, “we do what they do” when it comes to legislation. Can Canadians expect to see legislation like the most recent US Supreme Court ruling that has caused mixed reactions across the globe?
This United States Supreme Court ruling is also being touted as a landmark case in America, because it is the first one in centuries where the lines between church and State are clearly blurred in a decision that was anything but a landslide. The Globe and Mail reports that a “sharply divided” Supreme Court has ruled that businesses that hold religious objections to President Obama’s health care reform requiring free contraceptives to employees, simply don't have to do it.
Since this hit the Supreme Court it is being referred to as the Hobby Lobby, but what does this mean? Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling essentially means that President Obama and his Obamacare people must look for alternative solutions to providing contraceptives to Americans, or, Americans must find those solutions themselves.
Because the religious people think it is unconstitutional to force companies to provide free contraceptives, if they don't agree with contraceptives to begin with.
The "religious people", most notably the arts and crafts chain named Hobby Lobby are the ones that started this fight. The Green family that owns the company had been one of the first to challenge the mandates of Obamacare to force them to pay for their employees contraception.
Justice Samuel Alito was the justice in question that wrote the majority opinion on the Hobby Lobby ruling. According to ABC News he wrote that protecting the rights of companies like Hobby Lobby, "protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies." Alito also stated that the court had "little trouble" determining that this mandate burdens the American people.
Little trouble? A 5-4 ruling suggest there was a lot of trouble reaching that decision. According to ABC News, Alito wrote in his majority ruling,
"The Hahns and the Greens believe that providing the coverage demanded by the HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] regulation is connected to the destruction of an embryo in a way that is sufficient to make it immoral for them to provide the coverage. The Government has failed to show that the contraceptive mandate is the least restrict means of furthering that interest. Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and Mardel, protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those FRFR companies."
Not everybody agrees.
The collective applause from the Conservative camp, the camp founded by Thomas Jefferson, has been deafening. CNN is heralding it as a decision that "helps companies, but not humans". Elizabeth Wydra, Chief Counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center wrote, "Not only did the court's conservative majority give unprecedented rights to corporations, it did so at the expense of the rights of living, breathing people."
The White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest concurs, "President Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves, rather than their bosses deciding for them. Today's decision jeopardizes the health of the women who are employed by these companies."
It is a decision that is going to impact 30 million woman that are already receiving free contraception under Obamacare. Not only will this affect women in relationships, it is also going to affect how women get jobs.
Marci Hamilton a Constitutional scholar from Yeshiva University told the Associated Press that more than 80% of American companies will "now be able to discriminate against their employees."
But the Justice's that held the majority disagree, and say simply that Obama just needs to come up with another solution. That should be very simple, right? The world knows just how happily Obama and his Congress have gotten along for the past 6 years. Alito stated in his majority opinion,
"Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer's religious beliefs."
Alito proposed some solutions, as did Justice Anthony Kennedy who also ruled in favor of the decision.
Alito has suggested that the government simply pay for the prevention of pregnancy. Justice Kennedy says,
"The accommodation works by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost sharing, contraception coverage for female employees who wish it, and that this ruling does not impinge on the plaintiffs' religious beliefs."
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found the decision appalling, stating that it is "potentially sweeping" and "discounts the disadvantages religion based opt outs impose on others, in particular, employees who do not share their employer's religious beliefs."
She is not the only one appalled by the fact that 5 men in America made a decision that will impact at least 30 million American women.
And not just American women. Many Canadian women that apply for jobs where health care benefits such as contraception are offered are fearful that this ruling is going to creep across the border sooner than later.
Jillian B. a single mom of 5 from Toronto, Ontario told the Toronto Relationships Examiner that,
"This scares the snot out of me. Are we next? Thank God I have benefits, but I'm even afraid to say 'thank God' out loud now. And what about tomorrow? I have $40 in my wallet right now and I don't know what's for dinner for my boyfriend and the gang. I never thought I would ever live in a world where I might one day have to choose between having sex or feeding my kids."
Is that the world Thomas Jefferson dreamed of when he established the separation of church and state?
Does this decision affect you? How do you feel about that?