Hobby Lobby: Religion Bogs Us Down

A few weeks ago, there was that controversial bill in Arizona that shouldn’t have been controversial concerning religious freedom in discriminating against gays. I wrote about it here.

I wasn’t really concerned about the Arizona bill. It was doomed. But this (check the link out if you don’t know about the case) is serious. This will break the country if the wrong decision is made. Literally.

One thing a lot of people ignore in this case is that this isn’t some decision that will revolutionize religion across the world. All it will do, at the most basic level, is verify whether or not America is deserving of the first-world position that it pioneered after World War 2.

Let me repeat that: America pioneered the first world. But now we must see if we deserve that position.

Here are two graphs. One which displays religiousity, light green representing more religiousity, and one which displays access to universal health care. You see where I’m going with this.

Religious Index

Universal Health Care

America has fallen behind in what other first world countries provide. And it’s due to religion (more specifically, Ronald Reagan and his “religious right is gud!!1!”). If you don’t believe me, ask yourself against just why there’s a controversial Supreme Court case on whether religion overrides women’s rights.

The Obama administration has already provided exemptions for the contraceptives part of Obamacare to nonprofit religious groups. That’s enough of a problem. But when your boss’ religion matters more than your rights, what does that mean for the future of America?

By declaring that people have the right to exercise their religion on other people, what kind of message does that send to Europe and East Asia (and Canada and Australia) about us?

America has taken most of the steps necessary to doom itself. It has forsaken all but the 1%. It has repudiated the concept of social welfare. It has flouted the notion that students may be more important to our future than tax cuts for billionaires. It has left people to wallow in their stupidity (Don’t you absolutely love No Child Left Behind?).

But we yet hang on with the hope of reform. That maybe people will stop being such idiots. That maybe America too can provide universal health care and help students out. That’s a Marxist pipe dream in Utah, but taken for granted in Europe.

There is only one thing that can prevent the failure of America to keep up with Europe at this moment, the crash of the last standing hyperpower from World War 2. And that is the Supreme Court. There is only one road that will return us to the highway within the next generation. And that is to reject the supremacy of religion. It is to reject the concept that an archaic book is more important than the rights of those standing next to you. It is to reject the transcendence of religious beliefs, the idea that attaching a name to stupidity makes it important. We need change to this policy that religion is relevant— but to say that religion is foolish is political and social suicide in this country.

I worry about this case. Anything but an incisive and sharp ruling against Hobby Lobby may only prolong our suffering in the religious hell we doom ourselves to, but I do not foresee such luck. Corporations are entitled to 1st Amendment rights, by Citizens United, and the supposed swing vote in this decision, fairly radical Justice Kennedy, compares ruling for the government to forcing companies to pay for abortion.

ggwp surr@20

For June, I wait…


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Arizona and “Exercise of Religion”

On Thursday the 20th, the Arizona state legislature passed a bill that would essentially allow any business owner to deny service to gays (more broadly, anyone who serving would violate “religious beliefs”). The bill reached the governor on the 21st.

Yesterday, the 26th, the governor vetoed it. Thankfully.
But I don’t really care about that. (If the law passed, it would have been forced to the Supreme Court and been ripped apart, then making Arizona look stupid. Big deal.) People will oppose gay rights– that won’t end for a while. But, what kind of argument is “religious freedom”?

The Constitution does say, in the first line of the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

I can see where some people might say from here, “well, it’s right there, Congress can’t prohibit exercise of religion.”

But there’s a difference between exercising religion and applying religion.

People should be free to exercise religion in the sense that they can follow their own rules and pray how they like, but cannot press these rules on others or use their rules as exemptions.

THAT IS CRITICAL. When it comes to exercise of religion, law > society’s necessities > others’ religion > your religion.

Think about it this way. My religion says that I must never wear a seatbelt because it is the incarnation of the Devil. The law overrides this. I must wear a seatbelt either way. (As a note, sometimes the law is wrong. For example, the French “burqa ban” is essentially targeted discrimination.)

This, was the problem in Arizona. Zealots trying to legalize discrimination, which is illegal. However, there’s an underlying problem. ONE PERSON’S RULES DON’T APPLY TO OTHERS.

My religion may say that I must never wear collared T-shirts. That does not mean that I can try to pass a law banning collared T-shirts.  Fundamentalist hardline Christian tea partiers don’t seem to understand this. Christianity is not the only religion, neither is it the “best” religion. Most people can understand this (at least in my area). But one out of five Americans don’t. That’s a serious problem. That their interpretation of the Bible prohibits gay rights does not mean that gays are inferior beings is to them unimaginable.

I don’t see how hard this is to understand, but too many people apply it to too many arguments. “My religious book prohibits pie” is not a valid argument for banning pie sales. Similarly, “My religious book prohibits gay marriage” is not a valid argument for banning gay marriage. There may be cogent arguments (not that I’ve seen any), but “religious book says so” is not one.

I also noted above that society’s necessities override religion. But that is unrelated to the topic at hand. (Basically, you can’t skip work every Friday because “my religion says so”.)

Because America’s history and demographics are almost entirely Protestant, let me analogize this to something a bit out of the norm to make the point that one person cannot apply his religious rules to others. Mormon belief says that they shouldn’t play sports on Sundays. Okay. Whatever. Not my business. But let me quote http://mormon.lds.net : “We don’t expect others to feel the same about this issue.”

This is why you have never heard about Mormons protesting the Super Bowl. They don’t arrogantly expect others to hold their beliefs. When was the last time that a Mormon said something discriminatory because he was a Mormon? Of course, you can’t recall, because Mormons don’t do that. (Yes, Mitt Romney made a lot of stupid comments, but none were particularly religiously motivated.)

Meaning, in conclusion, your rules are your rules, and nobody else should, for any reason, have to give a damn. One thing the Mormons got right.