Religion Hub




The Most Dangerous Line in the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Ruling

AlitoBY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

The most dangerous line in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby doesn’t come until page 46. It reads as follows:

The principal dissent raises the possibility that discrimination in hiring, for example on the basis of race, might be cloaked as religious practice to escape legal sanction. Our decision today provides no such shield. The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race, and prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.

That doesn’t sound too bad; indeed, it is probably one of the few statements in Justice Alito’s opinion that many of us would endorse.

Its danger, particularly to the LGBT community, rests in what is not said.

As we have discussed at length, Hobby Lobby allowed a family-run, for-profit arts and crafts company to deny its female employees access to certain contraception simply because that contraception violates the religious beliefs of the company owners.

GinsburgJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent cautioned that the Court was opening a door to allow anyone to use the pretext of religion to opt out of antidiscrimination or public accommodations laws. Justice Alito’s response was to deny the charge, arguing that where the government has a compelling interest in preventing discrimination, as it does in preventing discrimination on the basis of race, the Hobby Lobby exemption would not succeed.

But what happens when the government does not have that “compelling interest”?

Justice Alito chose a convenient example to respond to Justice Ginsburg’s concern. Most people agree that discrimination on the basis of race is not just bad, but absolutely anathematic to our constitutional tradition. But no one in the Court’s five-justice conservative majority has ever said that the state has a compelling interest to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Even Justice Kennedy, the author of the Supreme Court’s three gay rights decisions, has carefully declined to declare that antigay discrimination merits heightened scrutiny or that the government has a compelling interest to permit gays to marry. We might believe that the same compelling interest that gives the state the power to prevent discrimination on the basis of race gives the state the same power to prevent discrimination on another status that has nothing to do with an individual’s ability to contribute to society—namely, sexual orientation or gender identity. But there are many judges out there who are not yet there. Congress isn’t even there yet.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Salem Mayor Writes Awesome Defense Of City's Decision To End Contract With Anti-Gay College - VIDEO

Kim driscoll mayor salem

On Wednesday we reported the decision by the City of Salem, Massachusetts, to kill a contract with anti-gay Gordon College.

Under the contract, the college operated the city’s Old Town Hall.  College president Michael Lindsay was one of more than 140 signees of a letter to Barack Obama seeking exemptions from a pending executive order which aims to prevent work discrimination by federally funded organizations. Letter by Kimberly Driscoll

Speaking to The Christian Post, Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll said that Gordon College's "behavioral standards" policy, which specifically forbids "homosexual behavior," "is in violation of the LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance that was unanimously adopted by the Salem City Council earlier this year.”

Driscoll has since published an awesome letter defending Salem’s inclusive policies and calling out attacks made by right wing blogs and websites.  Specifically citing wingnut Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, Driscoll writes that “this has resulted in a number of phones calls being place to my office from people outside of Massachusetts who have expressed some patently offensive views regarding LGBT individuals.”

In response to the barrage of phone calls, Driscoll goes on to say “we are keeping a tally of these phone calls and for each one we receive I will be making a donation of $5 to nAGLY [North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth], in support of your good work to create, sustain, and advocate for the policies and services that support youth here on the North Shore.”

Driscoll also asks that individuals make contributions to nAGLy as a response to “the persistence of those who would deny LGBT citizens their equal rights.” 

Watch a video introducing nAGLY, AFTER THE JUMP...

 

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Hobby Lobby and the Democrats Who Want to Fix It

SupremesBY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court's conservative majority allowed a large swath of for-profit companies to deny contraception to their female employees. Hobby Lobby, a national chain of arts and crafts stores, is a privately held, for-profit company that is run by a religious family. It's not a church. Nor is it a religious-based organization. It is simply a company that happens to be owned by religious people, but employs about 21,000 of varying beliefs. The owners objected to the part of Obamacare that required employers to provide health insurance that includes access to certain forms of contraception. They challenged that requirement and won, leaving the Supreme Court with a decision that declared that Hobby Lobby was a "person" entitled to the religious rights of persons.

We discussed the details of that decision here, in Part 1 of this three-part series on Hobby Lobby. In Part 2, I discussed how the Supreme Court actually made Hobby Lobby worse! For now, let's put aside our understandable anger at a decision that discriminates against women, denies necessary health care to those who need it, abuses precedent, and bloats religious freedoms to dangerous levels.

Hobby Lobby was a confusing decision and it is worth discussing it again not only so we can all understand it, but so we can fully appreciate its potential effects on the LGBT community. The ruling discussed religious freedom, which is enshrined in the First Amendment, but it was really based on a statute passed by Congress called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (as if religious freedom needed to be restored). It talked about corporations deserving the freedoms of persons, but it never fully explained if corporate personhood applies to everything or just certain freedoms and rights. Then, after going out of its way to explicitly narrow and cabin the decision to very specific situations, the Court majority did an about-face the next day, possibly expanded the scope of the decision, and admitted to the American people that, sometimes, the majority's words are just words, nothing more.

The decision did a lot of damage. So much damage, in fact, that Democrats in Congress are introducing legislation to overturn the decision. Speaker Boehner's conservative majority in the House is never going to bring the bill to the floor; the act of introducing the bill of pure (and great) politics. But to most of us, the entire scenario begs the question: How can Congress introduce a bill aimed at overturning a Supreme Court decision?

AFTER THE JUMP, I delve into the legal background of the Hobby Lobby decision so we can see how the case was decided and how legislation could fix it. 

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Church Of England Votes to Allow Female Bishops: VIDEO

England

The Church of England yesterday announced that it has voted to allow female bishops, reports Yahoo! News.

Justin_Welby_at_Seoul_CathedralThe General Synod’s vote reached the required two-thirds majority in each of its three different houses. 351 members approved of the move, 72 voted against and ten abstained.

Welcoming the vote, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called for tolerance and love for traditionalists who disagree with the decision.  Although it took almost 20 years for the first women priests to be ordained after the synod said it had no fundamental objections in 1975, Welby said that he expects the first woman bishop by next year.

However, many opponents have argued that allowing women into such a senior position in the church goes against the Bible.

Although there are no out gay bishops in the U.K., the Church of England announced last year that it will allow celibate gay men in civil partnerships to become bishops.

Watch an Associated Press report on the vote, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Teacher Files Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Against Georgia Catholic School

Macon georgia

Flint Dollar, a music teacher at Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, Georgia, has filed a suit against the school after his contract was not renewed when the school found out he plans to marry a man.

DollarSpeaking to NPR, Dollar said that he was honest about his sexual orientation with administrators at the Catholic school.  However, at the end of the school year he was told that “the bishop of the Diocese of Savannah called and expressed his concern that if I was to return it would be against the teachings of the Catholic Church."

The school has released a statement saying they have to consider an employee's ability to teach Catholic doctrine when making staff decisions.

Dollar’s lawyer Charles Cox says that although there is nothing to be done under employment discrimination legislation, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

According to Cox:

“When you fire somebody because they are engaging in a same-sex marriage, I think that pretty clearly fits with gender discrimination. You're being fired because you're not complying with traditional gender stereotypes, and that's wrong, and we believe it's unlawful."

Although Dollar has since filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sex discrimination, Matthew Franck, a constitutional scholar at Princeton says that even though it might work, it shouldn’t because “it's fairly clear that Title VII's reference to sex as a category of discrimination, that the people who wrote that had nothing like sexual orientation in their minds.”


Wingnut Mat Staver Says Gay Marriage Is A Direct Attack On Who God Is: VIDEO

Mat staver

Wingnut Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said last weekend that the U.S. is on the verge of total destruction because of its acceptance of same-sex marriage and abortion, reports Right Wing Watch.

Last month, Mat Staver appeared before a congressional committee on threats to religious freedom to explain his justifications for discriminating against gay people.

Speaking at “Celebrate America” in Washington, D.C., Staver compared the U.S. to Pompeii and said that by accepting homosexuality and same-sex marriage, America is “moving into a direct attack on who God is.”

Staver went on to say:

"When you destroy human sexuality and when you destroy human life created in the image of God and you destroy God's creation of marriage as man and woman, husband and wife, male and female, when you destroy that, you destroy your understanding of who God is. That's where we are moving right now in America.”

Watch Staver say that same-sex marriage is a direct attack on god, AFTER THE JUMP...

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