In a five-to-four ruling, along strict party lines, the Supreme Court Monday allowed corporations to impose the religious views of their shareholders on the employees of the company. The Roberts Court characterized this ruling as a defense of religious freedom. In reality, this decision was a major blow to religious freedom, and it sets a dangerous precedent for lower courts and future Supreme Courts.
The Court ruled that Hobby Lobby, and other “closely-held” corporations may refuse to provide insurance policies that include contraception coverage if they claim it violates the shareholders’ religious beliefs. The court ruled that corporations can opt out of providing that coverage. The majority of all U.S corporations . are closely held.
In the dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg correctly noted that this partisan decision actually violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That clause clearly states that there shall be no officially sanctioned religion in the United States. Flowing from that, the First Amendment also prohibits the imposition of a particular religious belief. What the Roberts Court has done is given official status to the religious belief of certain denominations over the beliefs of other religious denomination as well as those who have no religion.
The First Amendment was enacted after the Constitution was written because the founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and the hero of the right, James Madison, realized that the Constitution did not protect Americans from imposition of religion by the state. Their intent was to protect the citizens from imposition of religion and religious belief by the government. It was not intended to allow the government to force religion in general, or a specific religion in particular, on the people.
Inscribed in wall of the Jefferson memorial in Washington is an excerpt from Jefferson’s writings where he makes it clear the First Amendment gives people freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion.
When the Founding Fathers enacted the First Amendment, twelve of the thirteen states (the former colonies) were forced to change their state constitutions. The reason is that they conflicted with the First Amendment. All of the original states but Maryland had provisions in their constitutions that either established the Protestant Christian religion as the official religion of the state, or they specifically prohibited Catholics from holding any public office, as well as any other person who did not believe in the Trinity and swear allegiance to Protestantism.
Had the founding Fathers, including Madison, wanted to impose a particular brand of fundamental Christian belief, they would have grandfathered in the constitutions of the first twelve states, not require them to be amended. What Chief Justice Roberts and his Republican cohorts have done is reverse the Founding Fathers and the First Amendment.
The First amendment was written to protect the minority from the oppression of the majority when it came to religion. The founding Fathers were descendants of Protestants who fled England to escape persecution and repression by the Church of England. Catholics fled to Maryland to flee persecution as well. The Founding Fathers knew what happens when the majority imposes its will on the minority. They wanted to prevent that from happening here. The Anglicans were the majority in England, and they used their power in the government to persecute the minority.
The Supreme Court just struck down those protections. It now allows the powerful — in this case business owners — to impose their religion on employees. Even though the Court tried to mitigate what it knew was a purely political decision by saying it was limited to contraception, the precedent has been set for lower courts and future courts to allow business owners to impose all sorts of policies on their employees that could very well result in discrimination.
Although the Catholic Bishops supported the Southern Baptist plaintiffs in the Hobby Lobby suit, they should be careful what they wished for. Catholics are now vulnerable to future religious discrimination by businesses, as are all non-Protestant Christians and non-Christians. This ruling is the most discriminatory ruling against women since Women’s Suffrage was upheld. It specifically takes away rights from women that men enjoy. Today, the Court sanctioned discrimination against women. Tomorrow it could be Jews, Muslims, gays, and Catholics!
Justice Roberts and his partisan cohorts just threw the First Amendment in the trash — in the name of religious freedom. This decision, like the Dred Scott decision, will go down in history as the low point of American jurisprudence.