To All (Female) Job Applicants: Check Your Prospective Employer’s Religion
They're not just cutting you a paycheck, they may be making some very personal decisions for you.
In a 5-4 vote along the expected lines, the Supreme Court has ruled that a for-profit corporation is capable of exercising religious beliefs, at least when it comes to paying for birth control. An employer can now refuse to cover intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives because they find them morally objectionable. Even though large amounts of evidence show that these contraceptives prevent fertilization (the moment the sperm and egg unite) and NOT implantation (the moment an embryo sticks to the uterus). The Supreme Court has allowed that many thousands of women can be denied access to the best contraceptives because their employer is convinced that they would be paying for abortions.
Judge Alito’s opinion centered around the broad interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s protection of first amendment rights. Truly, the spirit of the Act was to ensure that the government could not prevent anyone from practicing their own religion. However, the majority of the court has completely failed to recognize that paying for IUD’s and emergency contraception will actually prevent those abortions they abhor so much. There’s no need to bring up the majority 5’s record on this issue, it is really quite obvious how they feel. Just last week they confirmed this by striking down the Massachusetts buffer zone law. This now allows ‘sidewalk counseling’ in front of abortion clinics, which is usually performed using graphic images of dismembered fetuses, medical misinformation, a bullhorn and threats of eternal damnation. Just what a woman needs to hear right before she makes a serious, personal decision. It is quite obvious that this court has put the beliefs of a few individuals on the religious right far ahead of those of ordinary, average citizens seeking medical assistance.
What is even worse is what these two rulings have implied. They are basically saying that it is OK for anyone to shove their religious beliefs in your face on your way to a doctors office, or while you’re at work. This SCOTUS decision has not merely endorsed a corporation’s (or person’s; remember, corporations are ‘people’, too) right to have their business practices reflect their religion, like Chik-Fil-A being closed on Sundays, it has allowed them to enforce their religious beliefs upon its employees. By working for them, an individual has thus opted-in to their belief system. They are no longer just your employer, but your moral compass as well; at least when it comes to something that costs them some money. At the end of it all, that was their beef- they didn’t want to have to pay for coverage of IUD’s and emergency contraceptives in their insurance plans.
Apparently, religious beliefs have a lot to do with what someone pays for. Consider Hobby Lobby’s President David Green: he owns the largest private collection of biblical artifacts, likely the largest in the world. He’s also bankrolled countless churches, evangelical projects, and Oral Roberts University. If that doesn’t grab the almighty’s attention, what else could? The fact that his company will now never have to spend a single penny on a IUD must also be scoring serious points as well.
Also bothersome outcome of this trial is that the denial of good science has been further codified into law. It is now OK for someone to enforce their religious beliefs upon their employees, even if it is completely at odds with accepted, scientific fact. Our acceptance of religion as a justification for ignorance must be stopped. The absolute denial of good science by our government institutions- the courts and houses of congress- for the sake of appeasing a few misguided individual’s claims can not continue at its current pace. The American public recoils at the idea of religion-based governments being established in other countries. But the insidious creep of the far, evangelical right into our policies seems to go unnoticed, or simply tolerated.
When will they go too far? When will we all have had enough? While incredibly misguided, the religious right has chosen its battles wisely. They have gone after an issue which costs no money to businesses, allows elected officials to sacrifice very little political capital and that everyone has an opinion about: sex. Just like in advertising and music, sex sells. It gets your attention, holds it and brings you back for more. You name it, they’ve been there: gay marriage, abortion, contraception, and sexual education in schools.
But it’s more than just sex in general. Notice where all of the debate is focused: women. Overwhelmingly, the arguments revolve around women’s use of their genitals to reproduce, or not. I have yet to hear about any institution, for profit or otherwise, who has sued the government because they were specifically morally opposed to the way men were using their genitals for non-procreation. Well, there was that whole ‘Defense of Marriage’ thing, but female couples were included too. There is no lawsuit to opt out of covering medications for erectile dysfunction or getting a penile implant- neither of which are prescribed for fertility purposes. Men are using these medical interventions to have sex without procreation which should be quite morally objectionable to many on the religious right. But we have yet to hear a moral outcry about the evils of doctors returning older men to sexual function, even though they won’t be producing any children. I have a feeling we will not be hearing this any time soon.
The moral of the story we’ve been told by Altio, et al in the last two weeks: a woman must avoid becoming pregnant at her own expense and once she is pregnant, everyone is allowed to share their opinion with her about what she should do. Moreover, it is not in our government’s interest that she has access to the full range of reliable contraceptives through her employer-sponsored insurance program. Ladies: you are on your own, fornicate at thy own peril.
And should she get pregnant and need to take time off for maternity leave, let’s hope that corporation steps up to the plate and does something truly pro-family: give her 6 months of paid maternity leave and make sure she gets her job back at the end of it. That’s the next story I expect to hear about Hobby Lobby in the news. There will be women queuing up around the block to apply for jobs because their family friendly policies: no birth control and paid maternity leave. Hobby Lobby: A paradise for reproduction. I have a feeling I’ll see that headline shortly after they announce they’ve stopped paying for Viagra on their prescription plan and will no longer cover penile implant surgery.
Justice Scalia repeatedly intones that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (the law cited by Hobby Lobby, et al. to justify their claims) was meant to ensure ‘…very broad protection for religious liberty’. He also states that the dissenting opinions and the defendant’s claims are ‘…couched in very broad terms such as promoting “public health” and “gender equality”’. Apparently, a very broad definition of religion’s sphere of influence is just fine. If one person’s religious beliefs happen to affect another’s ability to get a useful medical product, so be it! To Alito and the other 4 men who joined him, this minor inconvenience to an individual must not have a very broad impact of what access to contraception and unbiased medical care does for public health and gender equality. Medical evidence be damned, the moralistic judgment of a few has swung a majority vote in our nation’s highest court once again.