In June SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) used RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) to grant Hobby Lobby an exemption from a current law. The case http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf might cause you to ponder these basic questions:
- Do you think religious groups should be allowed (based on their religious beliefs or practices) special exemptions from laws that the rest of us must follow?
- Does your answer depend upon whether or not anyone (other than the religious practitioner) is harmed?
- Do you believe a strategy that allows a woman to choose between pregnant or not-pregnant is a necessary component of a woman’s health? And if yes to that question, do you also believe that the decision for the best form of birth control should be between a woman and her doctor? Certainly family planning and the emotional consequences of sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases are important but here I am merely asking about one health issue as it concerns a woman.
- Do you believe a cohesive group has a moral obligation to make available medical care for its group members? It is not a question about how to achieve the goal. Of course, we would have to define group (family, country, city, state, etc) and we’d have to define “available” once we decide whether or not a group has the obligation. I am trying to ask if you think an evolving community should want (as a group) to formulate a plan so that the medical needs of the group members can be met? Is treatment and prevention of health problems important enough to be given special consideration by a community/society/country?
My answer to question #1:
At one time, Justice Scalia didn’t want to allow an exemption from laws for religious reasons. He is quoted as saying ( http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2014/06/what-is-rfra-and-why-do-we-care/ ):
“….. would open the prospect of …. exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind.”
Shortly after Scalia made that statement, Congress passed RFRA. Here is an article about RFRA:
I think RFRA should be modified. I don’t mind if someone challenges a law if the law violates anyone’s first amendment rights. In the spirit of Kant’s categorical imperative, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative) let the First Amendment benefit everyone. If you are fighting for civil rights, then fight for everyone.
My point is two fold
- RFRA should only allow an exemption from a law if no one (besides the religious practitioner) is harmed.
- If RFRA will benefit the religious practitioner then modify the law (that RFRA is attacking) so that all citizens can take advantage of the benefit IF there is no valid reason for the law. If the law was a mistake, then it should be modified for everyone.
For example, RFRA was passed in reaction to consumption of peyote in a religious ritual. If you want to allow peyote consumption in certain situations, then outline WHEN it is OK. Outline the ritual and make it available to everyone not just certain religious sects.
It is interesting that Scalia ruled against the use of peyote in a religious ritual but he seems to be fine when it comes to restricting benefits to women if a religious group has an objection. I don’t want religious nuts holding our country back. What’s next? Schools will be forbidden from teaching evolution because a religious nut doesn’t believe evolution is supported by the evidence? I don’t think religious groups should be allowed to skirt the law. It is scary enough when a majority (that has it wrong) passes laws that are not based on evidence. It is even scarier to allow a minority to change laws that affect others. Please let a woman make her own choice about her own body.
My answer to question # 2:
Allowing Hobby Lobby to skirt the law hurts their female employees. Before the Hobby Lobby case, the female employees of Hobby Lobby had a certain benefit. After the Hobby Lobby case, they don’t have that benefit. A decrease in benefits is one definition of harm.
My answer to question #3:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, emphasized preventative care. Part of preventative care for women is prevention of unwanted pregnancies. The decision should be between a woman and her doctor as to what is the best strategy for preventing unwanted pregnancies.
We don’t want to go backwards to the time prior to Margaret Sanger. “During Margaret Sanger’s work among the working class of immigrant women she was revealed [exposed] to graphic examples of women forced into frequent childbirth, miscarriage, and self-induced abortion for lack of information on how to avoid unwanted pregnancy.” That is a quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger#Social_activism .
You might counter that the preventative package in Hobby Lobby’s health insurance policy does include some forms of birth control. However (after the ruling) their health insurance package now excludes the IUD and the morning after pill. Shouldn’t the decision be between a woman and her doctor? There are many examples of why the IUD might be the best choice for some women. Google it and you’ll see. What about extreme instances (such as rape)? Wouldn’t you want the woman to have access to the morning after pill?
Contrary to Hobby Lobby’s owners’ mistaken beliefs, those two methods (IUD and morning after pill) prevent the sperm and egg from uniting. They do not abort the merged egg and sperm. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/02/upshot/how-hobby-lobby-ruling-could-limit-access-to-birth-control.html?_r=1
In the majority SCOTUS opinion (see link in first paragraph), Alito said it didn’t matter that Hobby Lobby’s owners’ beliefs weren’t supported by the scientific evidence. All that mattered to Alito was Hobby Lobby’s owners’ “belief”. How absurd!!!!
My answer to question # 4:
Society has a moral obligation to provide medical care for its citizens. We want to encourage clinics, doctors, and research. We want affordable medical care to be available to every citizen. This is the problem we want to solve.
The creation of the ACA was a series of compromises. Here is a link to an article discussing the difficulty of trying to solve the problem of citizens being unable to obtain medical care:
Excerpt from that article:
“Political pragmatism carried the day as reformers made compromises on a range of additional issues…in order to pass legislation.”
One of the solutions to the problem is to pool our money. Require that everyone pay into the pool, ie insurance.
Preventative care was a vital part of the ACA.
Religious groups should not be exempt from any part of the requirement to offer preventative care in their health insurance package.
I thought the satire in the Borowitz Report (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2014/06/supreme-court-majority-calls-case-a-dispute-between-women-and-people.html) encompassed the spirit of how Alito’s SCOTUS majority opinion felt to me. Alito did seem to dismiss the rights of women. I think this SCOTUS decision puts women’s rights below the rights of religious nuts. It is very sad. Please know that I do not consider all religious people to be nuts. I am using the word “nut” to single out a specific group that wants to ignore evidence in support of some archaic point of view