Saturday, July 5, 2014

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and leftist bigotry
Not a Catholic-owned company ... not that the left cares.
Has anyone else noticed how very few of the left’s attacks on SCOTUS’ decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby involve little real legal analysis of the opinion? Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised; very few journalists are lawyers, after all, and many are simply political activists pretending to report news.

Instead, what we see is a lot of unhealthy focus on the religious and sexual makeup of the bench. Forget that, of the men on the majority, at least two would continue to uphold Roe v. Wade without reservations; forget that one of those men, just over a year ago, voted to strike down DOMA in United States v. Windsor; forget that one of the two women in the minority shares the same religious self-identification as the five men in the majority. Haters gonna hate; and when they hate, facts, logic and even recent history can just go whistle.

As I said of the Windsor decision, progressivist rhetoric about “the inevitability of change” and being “on the right side of history” disappears whenever there’s a significant setback, and various activists and talking heads start talking as though every key civil right is about to be rolled back. Now HuffPo is sweating out the implications of Burwell for gay rights, while the Guardian’s Jessica Valenti is hyperventilating over the Court’s “obsession with female purity”.

And through it all are constant references to the number of Catholic men on the bench and in the majority, as if the decision had been dictated by Catholic doctrine and Y chromosomes rather than by proper legal reasoning. They forget that the six Catholics and three Jews on the bench were all appointed by Protestant presidents; the only Catholic president, Kennedy, appointed an Episcopalian and a Jew.

Leftists, you see, have their own brand of bigotry.

Typical of this bigotry is Ronald A. Lindsay’s deplorable screed in — take a guess — HuffPo, “The Uncomfortable Question: Should We Have Six Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court?” In trying to get us to answer the question with a “no”, Lindsay not only misrepresents AJ Samuel Alito’s majority opinion but the issues before the Court.

In Justice Alito’s majority opinion, he relies squarely on Catholic teaching about “complicity” to explain the supposed burden. In doing so, he reiterates the argument that the Catholic Church has made in the dozens of lawsuits it has brought challenging the contraceptive mandate. According to the Church, it violates the moral obligations of a Catholic to do anything — anything — that would “facilitate” the provision of contraception to an individual. So even if one is not using contraception oneself, if one facilitates access to contraception by others, a grave moral wrong has been committed.

What does this omit? Well, it omits that “complicity” is precisely why Conestoga, Mardel and Hobby Lobby — all companies owned by non-Catholics — refused to provide for certain contraceptives in their employee insurance plans. In fact, Conestoga is owned by a Mennonite couple; this takes the pith out of Lindsay’s scathing remark that other cases would “present considerations important to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, Christian Scientists, and the whole host of small minority religions that don’t have the benefit of having six justices on the Supreme Court.” It also leaves out that “complicity” is also recognized as a feature of secular law, which is exactly why accessories to a felony are themselves tried as felons. No, “complicity” isn’t some quaint religious notion peculiar only to papists.

Lindsay’s rejoinder: “From a secular, constitutional perspective — and at least the fiction is that the justices are upholding secular law — there is no distinction between ‘facilitating’ contraception and other forms of health care.” However, to say that secular law doesn’t see a problem with offering employer-subsidized “morning-after pills” is not to prove that there is no problem, let alone that the Mennonites who run Hobby Lobby shouldn’t have a problem with them either.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the constitutionality of which was never in question, was intended to protect people from being compelled by law to do — or “facilitate” — that which they believe to be evil, even if that belief isn’t “religious” per se. To argue that secular law recognizes no problem is simply to restate the reason why the RFRA exists: “[Laws] ‘neutral’ toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise” (42 USC §2000bb(a)(2)). Contra Lindsay, laws don’t have to trample on religious beliefs to be secular in nature.

In other words, to reach his conclusion, Lindsay had to be ignorant of — or deliberately exclude — facts about the case, the participants and the law itself that are readily obtainable even to a neophyte like me. I find it ironic that a person billed as “President & CEO, Center for Inquiry” isn’t inquisitive enough to do some elementary research before letting his biases spill out onto the Internet for all to see.

The focus on the Catholic male component of the majority tells us more about the biases of the leftist commentariat than it does about Alito et al. You can, with only minor trouble, find on the Internet gay people who oppose same-sex marriage, atheists who stand foursquare for religious rights, women who oppose abortion … and churchgoing Catholic men who are programmatic liberals (Joe Biden, anyone?).

To argue, then, that only men are sexist is to be sexist; to argue that only Catholics oppose contraception is false and unfair to all the non-Catholics who also oppose contraception, as well as to the Catholics who don’t. The leftist concept of “privilege” allows them to exercise their bigotry while claiming to fight bigotry … perhaps in the belief that two wrongs do make a right. Leftists say “check your privilege” precisely so they can give their prejudices free rein while pretending to curb their opponents’.

Just having celebrated the 238th anniversary of this nation’s founding, I’d like to believe we’re closer to the realization of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of “one day [living] in a world where people are judged not by the color of their skin” — that is, by simplistic binary categories — “but by the content of their character.”

But it’s more than that. In my family history, I have both Ellis Island and the Mayflower. In my family tree I find relatives who not only fought against Hitler in Europe and Tojo in the South Pacific but also against George III in New England.

My Puritan ancestors also had a dream. That dream was that they could have a voice in their own government without having to give up or even modify their religious beliefs. That was the dream the Constitutional Convention tried to encode in Article VI, Section 6, which forbids religious tests as a qualification for government posts. That was the dream the First Congress tried to encode in the First Amendment, which gives everyone a voice in the public square regardless of religion. After all these years, Lindsay’s “uncomfortable question” shouldn’t even arise, let alone get a “no”.

How strange it is that the dream of Puritans must be defended by Catholics. And how strange it is that, over two hundred years after the ratification of the Constitution, we’re still trying to impose religious tests. Unfortunately, anti-Catholic bigotry is also a Puritan legacy.