Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Imposing Religion on Workers

In addition to the presence of a well educated population, one of the reasons that religion has withered in Western Europe is because the memory of the excesses of religion in the past are still remembered.  Wars of religion, the special rights granted to the Church and general behavior that was the antithesis of true Christian conduct soured the populace on a political-religion merger that generally worked against the interest of the majority and favored a powerful elite.  As often seems to be the case, America - and conservatives in particular - never learn from history or the experiences of others.  A main editorial in the New York Times looks at yesterday's horrific Supreme Court ruling that now allows employers to impose their religious beliefs on workers, the majority of whom likely hold contrary beliefs.  One can only hope the blow back is swift and extreme.  Here are excerpts:
The Supreme Court’s deeply dismaying decision on Monday in the Hobby Lobby case swept aside accepted principles of corporate law and religious liberty to grant owners of closely held, for-profit companies an unprecedented right to impose their religious views on employees.

It was the first time the court has allowed commercial business owners to deny employees a federal benefit to which they are entitled by law based on the owners’ religious beliefs, and it was a radical departure from the court’s history of resisting claims for religious exemptions from neutral laws of general applicability when the exemptions would hurt other people.

[T]he immediate effect, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in a powerful dissent, was to deny many thousands of women contraceptive coverage vital to their well-being and reproductive freedom. It also invites, she said, other “for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths.” 

Nothing in the contraceptive coverage rule prevented the companies’ owners from worshiping as they choose or advocating against coverage and use of the contraceptives they don’t like.

Mr. Alito’s ruling and a concurrence by Justice Anthony Kennedy portray the decision as a narrow one without broader application, like denying vaccine coverage or job discrimination. But that is not reassuring coming from justices who missed the point that denying women access to full health benefits is discrimination.
Perhaps the owners of Hobby Lobby should recall what happened to high church clerics in the Place de la Concorde in Paris and those who demanded special rights based on religion.   Similar lessons come from the Spanish Civil War when many clerics suffered for the Church's abuse of the majority in favor of the few.  Demanding special rights sometimes leads to extreme consequences.

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