Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dear Hobby Lobby, et al.: Jesus Is Not a Legal Fiction

[This piece is a reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby et al. cases, finding that for-profit corporations can have religious views and can opt out of certain laws as violative of those views.  I am furious -- hence this piece.  Working titles included -- The Good News of Hobby Lobby . . . or . . . Ladies & Gentlemen: I Give You Hobby Lobby World do not even get close to the heartbreak I experience over this case and its conclusion, to which I react much more as a Christian than I do as a woman, although both are in play.  If I offend, so be it.  I will not ask forgiveness in advance, which suggests an intention to sin while seeking to blunt the consequence to me, which is exactly what I perceive to be happening here, as self-interest prompts the highest ruling body in our land -- the Supreme Court -- to actually take faith and make it a joke.  God does not need my defending.  But my nation requires my participation.  To the decision . . . ]

So let’s all of the so-called liberal ilk*, and especially the women among us, just take a deep breath and look for a little bit of humor, a little bit of justice, a little bit of common sense in the Hobby Lobby Debacle.

First, to the humor:

Corporations are now not only people, but religious people.  This is GREAT news for us!  Finally, now, we women persons can form our own for-profit corporations, declare our religious views and exempt ourselves from a whole host of laws we find problematic.

1. Corporation Beth will not allow for nor pay for any employee of Corporation Beth to be away from work serving his or her country in the military.  It violates Corporation Beth’s pacifist religious tenets.  Sadly, that does not mean my employees might not be required by their government to serve.  But hey, the good news is that I as Corporation Beth, won’t have to pay for it.

2. Maybe Corporation Sally doesn’t care for certain styles and fashions popular to the day – so Corporation Sally might require men to wear loose-fitting pants so as not to be unduly distracting in the work place because Corporation Sally's God does not like tight pants on men!

3. Corporation Joan has read that addiction is one of those nefarious behavior-based diseases where the person may not know of their susceptibility to it until they imbibe.  Being a reasonable religious person and deeply caring for her employees, Corporation Joan may now institute a policy that in order to receive health care under her plan (her plan, her rules, remember, so long as it’s religious), all employees must refrain from all consumption of alcohol or drugs, prescription or otherwise (which quite handily gets rid of the prescription drug coverage requirement in one fell swoop).

4. In Corporation Every Woman in the United States, Viagra coverage is gone, gone, gone, because for sure, that violates ALL our religious faiths.

5. Corporation I Am Your Mother eliminates caffeine (bad for you and keeps you up at night); all fats in the diet (what, you want to have a heart attack before you’re 30?); cigarettes (need we say more?); driving too fast (I should pay for your suicidal behavior?); well, you get the point.  And it doesn’t matter one little bit whether we follow these rules or not (this is, after all, Corporation I Am Your Mother – CIAYM for short and in CIAYM, the order of the day is to do what I say and not what I do – Mom, after all, knows best).  So, to all you conservatives and libertarians, we hope you’re as pleased as we are – you’ve traded in your ‘Nanny State’ for Nanny Corporation.  And our freedom of speech guarantees you’ll be hearing from us even in your sleep.  Sweet dreams, cutie.  Love you, Mom.

6. Corporation Gladys eliminates all blood pressure medicines and treatments from coverage under her plan as most affected by such things are men and they have brought it on themselves and Gladys’ religion prohibits, absolutely prohibits, rewarding anyone, but especially men, for their own self-destructive behavior.  Corporation Gladys will send a representative to the visitation at your funeral.  But she will not be paying for your own self-destructive behavior.


As for justice, I’m with Dr. King on this one – the moral arc is indeed a long one, but its bent is one-directional.  The fact is that over time, this ruling will inevitably be taken to its logical and ridiculous conclusion and some future mothers and fathers will come to their senses and undo this nonsense.

I know that simply because, having been a lawyer, I know that my own kind can never, never, never, leave well enough alone.  Some creative cuss will inevitably come up with the silliest and most dangerous (from the State’s point of view) interpretation of this legal joke and it will work and the Supreme Court (keeper of the traditional values of the nation – never think otherwise) will recoil in horror at what their own ancestors have wrought.  The thing will be undone and all will be well – well, of course, except for all the folks in the meantime for whom it was not well.

And understand this about justice:  perception is as important as reality.  We cannot know with any certainty the intentions of those bringing these cases or those deciding in their favor.  But we can know that many women across this land feel disenfranchised, dismissed, attacked, minimized, disappeared from public discourse, simply because they are the target.  This action does not, cannot, affect health coverage for men.  It is only about women, as the 'keepers' of the reproductive cycle.  Argue all you like:  the fact is that many women experience this decision as discriminatory.


Common sense – that oh, so rare commodity, is right scarce these days, it seems to me.  Maybe I’ve missed something really important.  But I don’t think so.  So I offer a few personal bromides in the (most likely vain) hope of assisting those whose own common sense seems to have fled:

1. Jesus neither requires nor desires bouncers.  You do not have to (in fact you cannot) act to enforce Jesus.  It just doesn’t work.  In fact, it has the opposite effect.

2. Think mote and plank.  If this is really about religion (and we all know it’s not – it’s about money – but let’s play along and pretend that you really are honest brokers of your own truths), I humbly (okay, I’m not all that honest either) suggest you recall Jesus’ own words about the mote and plank and devote yourself to some time reading the Desert Fathers and Mothers (who were quite clear that their own breaches were so extreme that they were in no position to condemn the actions of others).  More directly, did you survey all your shareholders or trust beneficiaries to determine whether or not any of your women use IUD’s or other comparable means of birth control?  Clean your own damn house before you go snooping around in the houses of your employees is a more direct way of putting it.

3. There are always unintended consequences – put another way:  Know that you will pay for this – and not in a good way.  I alluded to this above, but I’ll be more clear: making law ALWAYS has unintended consequences.  You lack the imagination to even begin to comprehend where this law will go.  But there are lawyers and activist groups out there now plotting away.  In the long run, you will not have protected the sanctity of your own religious beliefs.  What you will do is make anything called religious a joke, as companies far and wide seek new and interesting ways to make themselves ‘religious’ so as to avoid their financial obligations (remember: it is ALWAYS all about the money).  If you really care about the practice of your religion, this was a very bad day for you and I am only sorry that you lack the insight to understand that.

4. Beware of any action taken by one group that affects the rights of another.  This is supposedly about religion.  But hear the women.  And hear them clearly.  This rule applies ONLY to women – men, thus far, cannot have children, so by definition, this rule is about women and women only.  The opinion is written by a man.  The dissent is written by a woman.  That should tell you something.  At a minimum, it should tell you that when one group (in this case, men) makes a rule that only affects another group to which they do not belong (women), great humility and caution are called for.  Listening to the voices of the other group is called for.

5. Moral ambiguity is the land of grown-ups.  You live in the land of grown-ups.  That means things will not always go your way, simply because you are not the only inhabitant of this land.  Just sit with that one for awhile.  You might ask yourself what we who see otherwise on this issue than you have had to put up with from the likes of you over the centuries to get some idea of what is intended here.

To Justice Alito and all the signers-on: I thought you were a Christian.  As such, I gave you credit for understanding how very ridiculous it is to claim that a corporation has religion**.  I never considered for an instant that you would take the rule that allows for non-profits to opt out of this provision as ‘evidence’ that corporations have religion.  But you did.

You may be a wonderful Justice (I am not in a position to know), but sadly, I must conclude that you aren’t much of a Christian, because you have made the Christ I follow a joke by doing that most insidious thing we lawyers can do: you have made Jesus a legal fiction.

And you have broken my heart.

*When it became ‘liberal’ as opposed to conservative or even libertarian to keep the government out of my vagina, I really would like to know.  When it became liberal as opposed to conservative or libertarian to favor the creeds of my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters (contraception equals sin) over the creeds of oh, say Jehovah’s Witnesses (blood transfusions equal sin) or Christian Scientists (all medical treatment equals sin), I really would like to know.  When the ‘religious’ rights of a fictional character (a corporation) became more important that the religious freedoms of its employees (real, actual, living, breathing people), as a stated value of the conservative and/or libertarians among us, I really, truly, genuinely, would like to know.

**Hobby Lobby  My own Hobby Lobby analysis – turns out (according to the majority of the Supreme Court) I was wrong.


  1. Replies
    1. Welcome - alas that it would even be necessary

  2. I must read and reread this as I am so disturbed and in so much agreement with you that I fear my blood pressure has gone up! Since the SCOTUS decision was announced yesterday, I have been going over in my mind how I will be able to say how much this upsets me, and how it is forcing women back into the Dark Ages. You say it so well, I will post your URL on my blog along with some of my own feelings. We women - Christian or otherwise need to stand together and not hush about what's happening in politics today! Our founding fathers must be turning over in their graves at the interpretations of our Constitution being made by the current justices and their skewed beliefs of separation between church and state.

    Thank you for speaking out!
    Peace and love,

    1. To my sister of another mother - ah, Marilyn, I live in a place called hope, but have to remember that the need for hope is itself evidence of injustice. Are they so foolish as to not understand that suddenly many women in the land will be receiving contraceptive care for medical (as opposed to birth control) reasons? That the beginnings of revolution sound in the perception and reality that justice is not justice after all as one side is routinely favored over and against another? "Let them eat cake" comes in so many forms, eh? Okay, I better quit now and work a little harder on remembering the "we're ALL children of God" thing. Hugs and peace, Beth

  3. Well written. This is SCOTUS lunacy at it's finest.
    I'm not certain if I'm more disgusted at this decision or horrified that they actually believe this.

    1. Samuel, As I read what you've written, I'm thinking it's equal on the horror scale, for I fear you are right - they really do believe what they're saying - which goes right back to the need to listen, really listen, to the folks we affect by our decisions rather than the voices in our own heads - sigh - the old folk tune comes to mind as the refrain plaintively asks over and over again, "when will they ever learn? . . . " and so it goes. My hopes lie in 2 ares: (1) that the hand has been overplayed (what Robertson so studiously tried to avoid in affirming 'Obamacare', I think - and that single-payer is closer than ever; and/or (2) that this ruling will, in short order, actually go to pretty ridiculous lengths forcing them to backtrack and shout the mea culpa, "but we didn't mean THAT!". Time, as always, shall tell. Shame about those who have to pay in the meantime. Okay, I am stopping now. Peace out and thanks for checking in, Beth

  4. As you have always done, you share the truth of a given situation and invite us to discern our prism of that which is truth. I fear for us, especially our youth who are hopeful of a just life. This decision has placed us in the wetlands of justice, especially within "Western" praxis. I am stunned by the loud silence of the "powerful" women and men who claim justice for all exist. Or, are "their" voices being edited...Miriam's tambourine is silent...Apasia is still staring in disbelief at Pericles and Cleopatra? Well..thank you Beth et al..Prayer to action...Shalom

    1. Tara, what beautiful, soulful, painful, evocative imagery - the echoing silences come down the halls and hills of history, don't they? Beth

  5. (Came here from a FB link.) Well done. Thank you. This was a decision written to be overturned from the moment it was signed.

    My question is, can a prospective employee now ask what the religion of the prospective boss is? Shouldn't they have the right to? I know the interviewer cannot ask such a thing of the applicant, but...

    1. Dear Alison, Good question - it certainly would seem a fair question to raise in light of this decision, wouldn't it? Thanks for reading and for your feedback. Peace, Beth