Across country there has been a storm of lawsuits. They reflect contested rights as some businesses and institutions ask for express legal permission to use religion to discriminate based on sexual orientation, sex and gender identity.
Just over a month ago, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate could not be applied to Hobby Lobby, a secular, for-profit corporation with religious objections to four of some twenty types of contraception. The Christian-owned craft store operates nearly 600 stores and employs well over 13,000. The company donates ten percent of its profits to charities, and last year it raised the minimum wage for full-time workers to $14 an hour.
A significant portion of the firm’s employees are women. Unfortunately, the ruling means that employees who do not share their employers’ religious beliefs can be denied access to contraceptive coverage. Put another way, the decision means that “faith” can dictate healthcare policy regardless of the impact of that faith on employees.
The court’s decision marks the first time that it has allowed commercial business owners to deny employees a federal benefit to which they are entitled by law based on the owners’ religious beliefs. The company’s religious exemption claim from the ACA contraceptive mandate appears hypocritical. The company went along with coverage of these same contraceptives when they provided private insurance for their employees. The company, then, provided the very kind of health coverage it finds impossible to reconcile with its religious beliefs before the ACA existed.
While filing a lawsuit against the ACA contraception mandate, the company, ironically, also spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraception products cited in the lawsuit. The company’s retirement accounts show investment in companies that develop, market, and sell contraceptives.
If the company really wants to ensure that they are anti-abortion in every way, it should provide employees with paid parental leave. This would make the company a corporate leader.
Never before has the court been so firmly divided along partisan lines, with all of the Republican appointees more conservative than all of the Democratic ones. It should be noted, too, that protests to the court’s decision have come from a wide variety of religious denominations.
According to the government, nearly thirty million women receive birth control as a result of the health care law. Critics say the ruling discriminates against women, the vast majority of whom will use birth control at some point in their lives.
The ruling raises other issues, too, by opening the door to all manner of claims that a company can refuse employment and accommodations based on its owner’s religion. Other questions about the startling breadth of the decision come to mind. Doesn’t the decision allow employers to get between women and their doctors? Can LGBT people be denied access to services? Could the ruling harm those who experience domestic violence? What happens now to the line between religion and the state?
Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Miami Herald columnist, called the court’s decision “frightening” because it involves “the imposition of religion masquerading as freedom of religion.” Meanwhile, Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu wrote, “America is a pluralistic nation without a state religion, and the government is not allowed to pick and choose which religions can claim certain rights or exemptions.”
The company has a right to consider certain forms of birth control immoral. It does not have a right to make contraceptive decisions for everyone they employ. Religious liberty properly belongs to individuals and religious institutions, not to for-profit corporations. Religious liberty gives you the right to make decisions for yourself, not for others.
Ralph Scharnau teaches U.S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta. He holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University. His publications include articles on labor history in Iowa and Dubuque. Scharnau, a peace and justice activist, writes monthly op-ed columns for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
As a son of a woman, a spouse to a woman, the father of two young women and the uncle of several women, I could hardly let the decision in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius go by without comment. Briefly this is indeed a major setback for women’s rights in this country. It is also a major setback for those who believe that courts are impartial. The Roberts Court has been shaped by reactionary leaders over a long period to favor the rich and powerful, the corporations over people at all turns. By picking very young justices, the Roberts Court will have more influence over lives in this country than almost any other group of politicians. All without any recourse from citizens.
Some of my thoughts on the ramifications of this decisions:
First, as with Roe v. Wade, the right in this country will play a long game in chip, chip, chipping away at the ACA until it is a gutted shell. Hopefully progressives in this country already realize this and also understand that a true single payer system like those in most other democracies is the only way to handle healthcare in this country. Supporting single payer healthcare should be the price of admission for all democratic candidates.
Second, despite Justice Alito’s utterances to the contrary, religion will now be a major hammer for the right to attack all that they do not like in this land. More attacks on the ACA on religious grounds, even expect attacks on things like Medicare and Social Security. Can’t be done you say? Just wait.
Third, this really strengthens the control the right wing has on women. Controlling people is one of the goals of corporations. By controlling people they can control things like wages and benefits.
Fourth, where exactly does “religious” freedom end. As with many on the left I find most wars to be avoidable. Can I ask to be exempt from paying taxes that go to war and constant war preparation? This is but a small example of where this could go. No doubt there is still a contingent in this country that is religiously opposed to inter-racial marriage. Religious leaders have already asked that businesses be exempted from an expected executive order banning discrimination against gays on religious grounds. We have lift off.
Fifth, hard not to notice that the five votes for Hobby Lobby came from five older white men all Catholic. In this case as most know contraception is mortal sin in the Catholic Church. Did they purposely impose their religious views as law? In any case as a group they are hardly representative of America as a whole.
Sixth, Hobby Lobby is probably the very epitome of hypocrisy in this case. Apparently their religion say they can’t have anything to do with contraception as part of their pay package, yet by buying most if their merchandise from a country that has abortion and contraception as state policy, they contribute directly to sponsoring abortion and contraception in China. What does their bible say about hypocrites?
To conclude, I offer some words from Justice Ginsburg’s scathing dissent in this case. Dissents in the past have been used as a basis for majority opinions later on. Let us hope that happens here. (From Dana Liebelson at Mother Jones)
“in a decision of startling breadth,” would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law that they find “incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage”
“Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community.”
“Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.”
“It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”
“Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”
“Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”
“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”
As we pass Independence Day and inch closer to the heavy political season (it never stops anymore) we need to get ready for the real job of a democracy. The past two years in particular have resulted in gridlock caused by Republican politicians at all levels. This is not what government is about. If those Republican politicians want our vote, they need to answer some questions. Here are some I would love to hear asked and answered honestly, especially by the four Republican candidates for the US House.
1) Do you agree with John Boehner’s action to sue the President?
– Will you join in the lawsuit if elected?
– What are the specific issues (be specific, not “he acts like a king”) for which Mr. Obama should be sued?
– Will you push for impeachment? On what specific grounds?
2) Do you support the SCOTUS ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius?
– If so, what other issues do you believe should be brought to the SCOTUS on religious grounds?
– Should discrimination against gays based on religious beliefs be allowed for closely held public businesses?
3) What specific legislation will you push to address the inequality in pay and conditions for women?
– Please cite Republican legislative action to address this issue in the past?
4) What specific action or legislation will you propose to address income inequality in this country. Please be ready to explain exactly how your proposal will directly affect the working class poor.
5) On immigration, particularly from Latin American countries. Some in your party have described such immigrants as “drug mules with cantaloupe calves.” Do you agree with this assessment?
– What is your proposal to practically deal with undocumented immigrants? What are the ramifications of your proposal?
6) The cost of college has skyrocketed while government support has fallen to all time lows. Thus the cost of college is out of reach for more and more Americans. Soon America will not have the human resources to maintain its lead in many economic categories. Does the cost of post-secondary education feel about right to you?
– Do you have a proposal to alleviate the crushing burden of debt for students? Please be specific on details and ramifications.
7) If elected will you support the House continuing to bring up legislation to end the ACA?
– If so, what would you propose to replace the ACA? Please be specific on coverage and on how the costs will be covered, especially for the poor.
8) Finally, many Republicans are coming to believe climate change is happening. What is your belief in this area?
– Please give specific documented sources for your supporting arguments.
That is a good start. I would really much rather know what an representative believes before I vote. Don’t you?
They Need A Horse Race!
One thing you have to remember going into the silly political ad season is that this is the time of year that make TV stations and networks and those corporations that own them rich. No doubt those with corner offices on upper floors of corporate headquarters care for the most part that Republicans win. But beyond that they care more that all their air time is bought at top dollar.
So what the TV execs want more than anything else is a good old fashioned horse race so that candidates will keep forking over the big bucks to keep the candidates name out there right up to the end.
As Usual, Branstad Lies
Those damn Branstad commercials are on every channel in the universe. I wonder if they are getting them in London or Ottawa? As with anything Branstad, they are a load of lies. Yes we have gained some jobs but nowhere near what he promised. Since I can’t stand to watch his commercials, I can’t say they are lying. However since his administration puts out false numbers I would suspect his commercials do also.
SCOTUS Turns Its Back On Women.
Even the women on the Supreme Court seemed to have turned its back on women. Taking away the 35 foot buffer zone to women’s health clinics in Massachusetts is a hard blow to women’s reproductive rights. Once more the most activist Court makes another argument that it is the worst Court in history. In this case they seemed to think that the protesters free speech rights are somehow impinged if they can’t get right in patients faces to intimidate and harass. They were perfectly free to say whatever they wanted from their 35 foot distance.
I trust this means the end of the so called free speech zones at political functions. Based on this decision, anyone should be able to protest right up to the door of a convention or other meeting. Have at it.
ALEC To Meet To Sell Out America
Just a reminder that the oligarchs of ALEC (a subsidiary of Koch Industries) will be meeting in Dallas on July 30th to decide what they will have their puppet legislators throughout the country do in their state legislatures next winter. If you have a Republican legislator, you have a legislator who owes their allegiance to the oligarchs at ALEC not to their district or state.
Pesky Damned Facts
Jonah Goldberg via Dailykos:
“I supported the war, and I still think the arguments in favor at the time were superior to the arguments against. Alas, the facts on the ground didn’t care about the arguments.”
Portable Death Machines
They kill indiscriminately. Kill your neighbors. Kill your family. Kill yourselves. But do read the roundup of gun deaths weekly at dailykos.com. It is not sad. It is not funny. It is frightening. Don’t want to lose a son or daughter. Stand up against guns.
In honor of Rick Perry’s presence in the Hawkeye state this week, let’s all sign and share this letter to Rick Perry for Wendy Davis!
Rick Perry rubs elbows with the billionaire Koch brothers and their special interest friends, rather than working for Texas families. He appointed an executive from a predatory lending company to the Finance Commission of Texas in charge of cracking down on predatory lenders. He cut billions in education.
Rick Perry is an embarrassment. He has put his own political gain ahead.
Wendy Davis is a leader that will work to make the great state of Texas even greater. Sign up below to stand with Wendy Davis and defeat Perry’s cronyism.
Students at the University of Iowa are protesting President Sally Mason’s bizarrely insensitive and seemingly uninformed comments about rape and sexual assault. In an interview with the Daily Iowan on Feb. 18 Mason said “The goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault. That’s probably not a realistic goal just given human nature … ” Sexual assault is human nature?
Five times in the Feb. 18 interview, Mason characterized sexual assault as a “bad thing” that “happens” to people, not once referring to the act of rape as a crime.
“when it comes to sexual assault and other kinds of bad things that can happen to people, you have to know more about it, we have to understand it, and I think what we’re seeing now is more people being willing to come forward and tell us when something bad happens.”
So, according to Mason, rape and sexual assault is just something bad that happens, implying that it is nobody’s fault. Further, she opines that we need to find a greater understanding about it. One wonders if she also thinks we need to find a better understanding of other types of crimes.
To be fair, the interviewer’s question was specifically about how the UI was educating people on the topic of sexual assault. So perhaps she didn’t really mean it like it sounded, but unfortunately the rest of her interview on this topic did nothing to indicate otherwise.
The implication that rape is “human nature” is not only incorrect but highly offensive and dangerous and frankly, a deplorable way for anyone to characterize a violent crime, particularly a university president who should definitely know better.
In response, students organized a respectably attended protest on the Pentacrest and a protest at Mason’s annual presidential lecture (see video and links below). The Daily Iowan is publishing every letter received on the topic.
A statement was released by Mason on Feb. 20. Notice how the rhetoric changed. The word crime appears twice in three short sentences.
“Sexual assault is a terrible crime, one for which there is no excuse. The UI will take all the actions in our power to prevent rapes, to support victims, and to prosecute offenders. Even one sexual assault in our community is too many, and we must confront this together as a community. I am committed to do everything in my power to end this terrible crime on our campus.”
That’s more like it. Not only is rape now a crime, it is a terrible crime. We’re making progress! Now may they follow this statement with policy to match.
Bravo UI students for banding together and speaking truth to power!
Click here to read the DI interview with Sally Mason
Click here to view coverage of the pentacrest protest
Click here to read letters to the Daily Iowan in response to Mason’s comments
Video of protest at Mason’s annual lecture on Feb. 24:
Despite a good bill regarding increases in penalties for animal abuse, and support for increasing the fuel tax in order to maintain our roads, he is still headed the wrong direction on the big items.
Nothing affects our state’s future course more than education. Education needs to be our first order of business, and be the very first priority on the budget. The Iowa House failed to invest in Iowa’s future this week.
This past week, Bobby chose to help “enable” the Iowa Taliban agenda. In a bill that solves absolutely no problems, adds no safety to a private medical procedure, but restricts access to abortion for those most in need and disregards the fundamental rights of half of his district, he has chosen to govern by ideology. Obstructing the freedom to make personal choices about child-bearing gives conservatives a warm fuzzy feeling, without solving any actual problems. Pretending that fetuses have a right to finish developing into a full term live birth strips rights away from women already fully involved in their lives.
Conservatives are wrong to view abortion as the apex of immorality. In a time when contraception is safe and reliable, producing children that you are unprepared to raise well is a far greater sin.
Parents have a moral obligation to prepare properly for child rearing. Responsible child rearing involves knowing what they will need to be taught and provided with to grow into healthy, productive adults. Children cost money, and “God will provide” is not a financial plan. Sometimes the hard but correct choice is to terminate a pregnancy where the necessary elements for child rearing are not in place yet.
Placing requirements on women such as proving rape or proving health issues is a very slippery slope, and beyond demeaning.
Why does the party of personal freedom and individual rights exempt women from that concept?
Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.
“The Republicans who run your Iowa House say they won’t approve public school funding for the 2015-2016 school year, even though the law requires it.”
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Matt Sinovic, Progress Iowa Executive Director
DATE: February 14th, 2014
RE: Iowa’s ‘House of Distractions’
The Iowa legislature failed to meet a crucial deadline yesterday, when they were supposed to approve K-12 funding for the 2015-2016 school year.
Securing that funding in advance is even more crucial now, as our schools are funded at $1,500 lower per pupil than the national average, and more and more students are living in or on the brink of poverty. Those students count on our public schools for opportunity, and rely on our elected officials for leadership.
Last week, the Iowa Senate passed a 6% funding increase for next year, meeting their obligation to our students and restoring critical funding for our schools. Unfortunately, the Iowa House of Representatives refused to consider any increase and did almost everything except fund our schools during the past week, turning themselves into the Iowa House of Distractions.
What has the House of Distractions been doing, if not following the law and funding our schools? Here are a few of the issues they chose to focus on this week:
Comparing guns to hot dogs: Rep. Matt Windschitl, debating HJR4, compared gun deaths to deaths caused by… hot dogs. If we regulate guns, we might as well regulate hot dogs.
Restricting access to women’s health care: The House passed a bill banning the use of so-called telemedicine delivery systems for medication abortion, restricting access for women primarily in rural areas. They did this despite the fact that as access and education about abortion has increased, the rate has decreased.
Listening to the extreme right on education: In a subcommittee chaired by Rep. Sandy Salmon, only right wing experts were heard, including a self-proclaimed author of template legislation for ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. No parents, teachers, or students were listed as invited participants.
Email sent by Rep. Sandy Salmon; emphasis/highlight added, 2/9/14:
From: “Salmon, Sandy [LEGIS]”
Date: February 9, 2014 at 6:30:35 AM CST
Subject: testimony for subcommittee
Thank you for serving on a subcommittee with me that will look at issues related to the Common Core.
I wanted to give you the heads up that some speakers will be coming from out-of-town to give testimony at the subcommittee meeting. They are the following people:
Jane Robbins J.D., senior fellow at the American Principles Project, whose work includes education policy, student privacy and parental rights issues. Ms. Robbins has drafted state legislation on educational transparency and sovereignty that has led to a parallel resolution by the South Carolina Southern Baptist Convention, model ALEC legislation, and emulated legislation in several states.
Henry Burke of Omaha, Nebraska, is a Civil Engineer with a B.S.C.E. and M.S.C.E. He has been a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) for 37 years and has worked as a Civil Engineer in construction for over 40 years. Mr. Burke had a successful 27-year career with a large construction company.
Henry Burke serves as a full-time volunteer to oversee various construction projects. He has written numerous articles on education, engineering, construction, politics, taxes, and the economy including state specific costs for the implementation of Common Core / Iowa Core.
Bruno Behrend, J.D. is a senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute in Chicago. The mission of the Heartland Institute is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.
Thank you for helping to look into this and we’ll see you this coming week!
State Representative Iowa House District 63
Following only the laws they choose to follow: After failing to meet the school funding deadline set by state law, the Iowa House passed a bill changing state law, meaning they could delay funding. One Representative who opposed the change asked “so you’re going to pick and choose which laws you follow?”
None of these proposals are expected to pass in the Democratically controlled Senate. All of these proposals serve only as a distraction from the real responsibilities of the Iowa House, the first of which is funding our schools. While they should have been working toward better opportunities for Iowa students, they instead chose to spend time on distractions.
More than 1,700 have petitioned House leadership to fund our schools. School administrators oppose their funding delay by a 98 percent margin. It’s time the leadership in the Iowa House of Representatives start leading and stop distracting. They should put an end to the House of Distractions and get to work.
According to the Terry Branstad method of accounting for jobs he will be happy to know that when he loses his next year it will not count against him. Plus when the Democrat takes his place, that will count as another job created by Branstad!
Gay Marriage In Illinois?
They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere! What’s that? Oh, there really are gays everywhere. I’ll be darned. They are getting married and raising kids and your marriage has not been ruined. Somebody been lying to us!
Scott Walker is starting to make noises like a presidential candidate. Sorry, Mr. Walker but many of us will ever see you as anything more than a Koch sucker.
Did You Ever Hear?
Have you heard someone say “I don’t have kids in school, why should I pay taxes for schools?” Well look at this chart and see if there aren’t a few things YOU would like to cut out.
Note To Ken Cuccinelli
Couldn’t have happened to a better person, Cooch. The loss, I mean. Maybe TMAC will really turn Virginia into a place for lovers – of all stripe. On your way out the door, take one more read of this.
Hi To All The New Worlds Out There
The Keppler telescope has allowed scientists to estimate that there are possibly some 20 billion planets in “Goldolocks” zones just in our galaxy, with potentially billions more throughout the universe. I can hardly wait until we make contact and can start fighting a war over whose God is the one and true God.
“Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight.”
See you soon?