Employers are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans, though they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do.
Maybe these politicians aren’t doing the math, but we are. More cost = less access.
The topic of today’s “Faith and Freedom” radio program was the lawsuit filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor against Obamacare’s contraception accommodation for non-profit religious organizations, which Matt Barber and Mat Staver once again compared to Nazi Germany.
Under the accommodation, non-profit religious organizations that object to providing contraceptive coverage for employees simply have to file a letter noting their objections and then they “will not have to contract, arrange, pay for or refer contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds” as such contraception coverage will then be provided separately by the insurance provider.
That compromise, to Barber and Staver, is nothing short of pure evil and no different than the Nazis forcing people to gas the Jews.
"If you are being forced to pay for the gas in the chamber that is injected into that chamber to kill a Jew, that’s one thing." Staver said. "On the other hand, if you are required to say ‘you go right, you go left,’ the ones that go to the left, they go to the gas chamber, you don’t have to pay for that, but you have to make the decision to do it, it’s the same thing. Whether I have to exchange a dollar or ten dollars or a thousand dollars to facilitate the death of a human being or whether I have to say ‘I can’t do it, I can’t pull the trigger so therefore don’t make me pull the trigger,’ consequently since I’ve objected now a third party has to pull the trigger. There’s no difference."
Barber agreed, saying that those who object “are still being forced to be complicit in that abortion homicide,” which is exactly what President Obama wants because he “in large part, lives his life to enable people to kill others.”
"This is good versus evil," Barber said, "and there’s little question who’s on the side of good here and who’s on the side of evil":
h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW
The Obama administration has issued a new set of rules to provide contraceptive access to women whose employers object to their insurance plans covering birth control, which is required under the Affordable Care Act.
The new policies are intended to fill gaps left by two Supreme Court moves: The landmark Hobby Lobby decision saying contraceptive coverage violated the religious liberty of a for-profit corporation, and a preliminary order in Wheaton College v. Burwell. With today’s regulations, employees of for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby will be able to access an “accommodation” where the insurer directly provides the cost-free coverage with no financial involvement by the employer. That accommodation was originally limited to religiously-affiliated nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor; houses of worship are fully exempt.
For nonprofits like Wheaton College that object to even that accommodation – which involves them signing a form to their insurer – the Obama administration has created a new accommodation to the accommodation. (Yes, it gets complicated.)
“The rules, which are in response to recent court decisions, balance our commitment to helping ensure women have continued access to coverage for preventive services important to their health, with the Administration’s goal of respecting religious beliefs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said.
For the non-profits that object to the form – arguing that signing it triggers the very birth control coverage they oppose – the new rule allows those employers to write to HHS directly, instead of filling out the form. The Supreme Court first suggested the letter-writing option, and so far the litigants have accepted it. But there was some dispute among legal scholars before about whether the letter would result in actual coverage for the women who worked at those companies. The new rule clarifies that it does.
HHS is also seeking comment on exactly how to structure its accommodation for for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby, which is only one of 193 corporations that have sued for an exemption from covering contraception.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s rule that all insurance plans cover contraception without a co-pay as preventative care was a burden on the religious freedom of Hobby Lobby and other “closely held” companies. (That decision now guides courts considering other companies with objections to some or all forms of contraception.) The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, said the government failed to show it had pursued the least restrictive way of getting women contraceptive coverage, and as proof pointed to the non-profit accommodation as “a system that seeks to respect the religious liberty of religious nonprofit corporations.”
A few days later, when asked to prevent Wheaton College, one of the nonprofits suing over the accommodation, from having to fill out the accommodation form to their insurer while their litigation proceeded, a majority of Justices said Wheaton could write a letter instead. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a fierce dissent signed by the other two female Justices, accused the court of going back on its word in Hobby Lobby, writing, “Let me be absolutely clear: I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs. But thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened … does not make it so.”
At the time, Wheaton hailed the letter-writing option as a victory, but it’s far from clear that the new accommodations will mollify all of the plaintiffs now that it’s clear the end result will be women getting no-cost contraception.
In July, after the government signaled it would issue the new rules announced today, Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund, which represents Wheaton College and several other nonprofit litigants, said, “This is just the latest step in the government’s long retreat on the HHS Mandate. It is at least the seventh time in three years that the government has retreated from its original, hard-line stance that only “houses of worship” that hire and serve fellow believers deserve religious freedom.” Windham did not say whether the letter-writing option would ultimately be satisfactory, but said, “We are encouraged that the government is reviewing its policies.”
At oral argument for Hobby Lobby, Justice Sotomayor asked the company’s attorney, Paul Clement, “Will your clients claim that filling out the form, if – you’re saying they would claim an exemption like the churches have already?” She was referring to the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which like Wheaton College is a religiously-affiliated nonprofit that had sued for an exemption, saying the accommodation was not enough. The Supreme Court had told the Little Sisters it could write a letter to HHS instead of filling out the form.
Clement’s reply was cagey. “We haven’t been offered that accommodation, so we haven’t had to decide what kind of objection, if any, we would make to that. But it’s important to recognize that as I understand that litigation, the objection is not to the fact that the insurance or the provider pays for the contraception coverage. The whole debate is about how much complicity there has to be from the employer in order to trigger that coverage. And whatever the answer is for Little Sisters of the Poor, presumably you can extend the same thing to my clients and there wouldn’t be a problem with that.”
Indeed, Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown Law School who has written extensively about the contraceptive cases, wrote in July of the letter option, “I think it is likely that most of those organizations will not be satisfied: They will argue that such a ‘fix,’ too, violates their rights under RFRA, because their act of opting out will continue to establish the legal authority for the government to require another party to provide coverage.”
In other words, the legal fights against the Obama administration over contraceptive coverage aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
A Christian college in eastern Pennsylvania has filed suit in federal court, fighting the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that it provide access to a third-party administrator, which could offer services including the “Plan B” morning-after pill to their employees, according to The Mercury News.
Valley Forge Christian College, located in Phoenixville, filed the suit stating that it objected to being compelled to participate, “indirectly with, or transferring any legal or moral authority by which a third party might enable the provision of such services to the employees of Valley Forge Christian College.”
The college’s objection stems from the “accommodation” provision of the ACA, which allows non-profits to opt out of providing contraceptives by employing a third-party administrator or insurer.
According to the lawsuit, “Valley Forge Christian College has no objection to providing coverage for contraceptive drugs which truly — and only — prevent conception and do not interfere with the continued survival of a human embryo.”
At issue for the small college affiliated with the conservative Assemblies of God, is what it considers “abortion-related drugs and procedures,” including Plan B.
The claims are similar to ones made in the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, where the plaintiffs called Plan B an “abortion-causing drug.”
Critics have pointed out that Plan B is not an abortifacient, citing the FDA’s description: “Plan B One-Step will not stop a pregnancy when a woman is already pregnant and there is no medical evidence that the product will harm a developing fetus.”
With the lawsuit, Valley Forge is using the same argument used in Hobby Lobby: their belief that the drug is used for abortions.
Should Valley Forge fail to provide access to a third party administrator it would face fines of $100 per day per beneficiary under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
“In its recent ‘Hobby Lobby’ decision, the Supreme Court of the United States made clear that citizens cannot be forced to choose between violating their faith and being punished by the government for following their faith,” explained Jeff Mateer, general counsel for Liberty Institute, which filed the suit along with a local law firm.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, named in the suit, referred all questions to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has yet to respond to the Friday filing.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that businesses get to decide whether their female employees should have access to contraception, five conservative men disagreed with three women and Justice Stephen G. Breyer. This gender split could have been incidental, since the three women on the court were appointed by Democratic presidents. But it also signifies a deeper misunderstanding about the experience of women, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told Yahoo News’ Katie Couric in an interview this week.
“Do you believe that the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision?” Couric asked Ginsburg this week. “I would have to say no,” Ginsburg replied. “But the justices continue to think and change so I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow.”
“Contraceptive protection is something every woman must have access to, to control her own destiny,” Ginsburg told Couric. The decision allowing an employer to refuse to cover those contraceptives “meant that women would have of that for themselves.”
She analogized the “blind spot” the justices had in this case to that in the 2007 ruling against plaintiff Lilly Ledbetter, a woman whose fair pay lawsuit was rejected by the court. She has framed on her wall the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, passed by Congress two years later to correct the Supreme Court ruling in which she dissented. It was the first piece of legislation signed by President Barack Obama.
Ginsburg said the passage of the law is one of her proudest achievements, because in her dissent to that case, “I said the ball is now in Congress’ court to correct the error into which the court has fallen. And Congress did it in record time.”
Lawmakers have already proposed the “Not My Bosses’ Business Act” since the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in June. But Republicans in the Senate blocked the bill from moving forward.
In her interview with Couric, Ginsburg praised the U.S. tradition of dissents, noting that “many of those dissents are now unquestionably the law of the land,” pointing to Justice John M. Harlan’s dissent to the separate but equal ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson.
In her 35-page dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Ginsburg lambasted the majority for asserting that employers have religious rights that trump those of employees.
“I certainly respect the belief of the Hobby Lobby owners,” Ginsburg told Couric. “On the other hand, they have no constitutional right to foist that belief on the hundreds and hundreds of women who work for them who don’t share that belief. I had never seen the free exercise of religion clause interpreted in such a way.”
She explained how the law is supposed to work with an analogy she used in her dissent: A person has freedom to move his or her arms until it “hits the other fellow’s nose.” “It’s the same way with speech. Same way with religion. You can exercise your right freely until the point where it is affecting other people who don’t share your views.”
On the male justices’ future evolution, Ginsburg said she believes that “daughters can change the perception of their fathers.” She also believes that progress wins out over the course of history. Asked about the landmark Citizens United ruling that struck down limits on corporate political spending, Ginsburg said she believes her dissent in that case will also one day be the law of the land.
“That is my expectation,” she said. “I may not be around to see it but it will happen.”
Above the framed copy of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in her chambers, Ginsburg has a photograph of the signing of the act, given to her by President Obama with a personal message. “Happy birthday,” he wrote, “and thanks for helping to create a more equal and just society.”
She’s right on.
h/t: Nicole Flatow at Think Progress Justice
Call the denial of contraceptive coverage what it is: discrimination.
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, an all-male U.S. Supreme Court majority granted exemptions to “closely held corporations" that refuse to offer contraceptive coverage in employee health plans. In response, many have thrown up their hands, asking, Why should women have any faith in the law if it can’t even protect us from this?
But here’s the thing: It does. Employers who single out contraceptives as undeserving of coverage don’t only violate ethical expectations of gender equality. They also violate federal anti-discrimination law.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex, including enacting policies that, while gender-neutral on their face, disproportionately hurt either men or women. Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 to clarify that it meant for Title VII to protect employees from discrimination based on pregnancy — even though such policies and harassment technically did not single out one sex, just “pregnant people” versus “non-pregnant people.” Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnancy discrimination constitutes sex discrimination.
Title VII can apply to not only pregnancy but also the potentiality of pregnancy, so corporations that single out contraceptives while covering other medical care discriminate based on gender. According to a January 2000 Title VII ruling issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (as well as multiple lower court decisions), the very exclusion the court appeared to authorize in Hobby Lobby constitutes a violation of federal nondiscrimination employment law.
Just last week, in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, the EEOC issued new guidance on pregnancy discrimination, reaffirming that excluding contraception from an employer health plan that covers other preventive services amounts to sex discrimination. The Hobby Lobby decision did not address Title VII simply because the court wasn’t asked to. The lawsuit was a challenge from corporations seeking to get out from under the contraceptive mandate, not a discrimination claim by the craft chain’s employees.
Nonetheless, the justices should have considered the anti-discrimination law on the books. By ignoring the discriminatory aspects of the denials, the Hobby Lobby majority was able to argue that the government’s interest in protecting contraceptive access could not sustain the Religious Freedom Restoration Act challenge mounted by the objecting corporations.
However, the government’s interest, as expressed in Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, in protecting people who are or have the potential to be pregnant from discrimination could — and should — have been marshaled to tip the scale against Hobby Lobby.
We may still see a successful Title VII challenge to employer insurance policies that deny contraceptive coverage. Just because the Affordable Care Act can’t require closely held corporations to follow its mandate doesn’t mean anti-discrimination laws can’t produce the same result.
It’s important to call the denial of contraceptive coverage what it is: illegal discrimination. The policies in question in Hobby Lobby are not merely the stuff of culture wars. They discriminate against women in violation of a civil-rights law passed half a century ago.
The White House has announced it will no longer require non-profit religious organizations to fill out a form in order to opt out of furnishing contraception coverage for employees.
The Affordable Care Act, (ACA) colloquially known as Obamacare, will soon have revised procedures that will allow non-profit religious organizations to avoid providing contraception coverage to its employees.
A spokesman identified as a “senior administration official” assured CNN they had found a “fix” that would allow religious organizations to opt out, while ensuring their employees will still have contraception coverage with no co-pay:
"In light of the Supreme Court order regarding Wheaton College, the Departments intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification, while ensuring that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage of contraceptive services without cost sharing"
The move is a pre-emptive one by administration officials, who anticipate that the Supreme Court could soon make final - and extend to other religious institutions - a temporary order that currently allows one Christian college (Wheaton) to refuse its employees contraception coverage, without first filling out the ACA required form stating their objection. College officials claim even filling out the form violates their religious beliefs.
The Justice Department filed a brief with the Supreme Court yesterday, notifying the High Court of new rules governing the religious exemption accommodation process that will no longer require the use of a form, before they finalize their Wheaton College ruling. The brief said the rules will apply to Wheaton and any other institutions to which the Supreme Court might extend the religious exemption.
A White House spokesman said the new procedures, which are still being finalized, will provide an “alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification.” He added that ”the administration believes the accommodation is legally sound.”
The new procedures are expected to be in place next month, at which time the Justice Department will notify the Supreme Court.
Republican-majority legislatures in many red states are gorging themselves on new laws to restrict safe, legal abortion out of existence, but things have been pretty stable for the women of Tennessee, a state that has 14 doctors providing abortion, compared to a mere eight in Alabama and two in Mississippi….
Republican-majority legislatures in many red states are gorging themselves on new laws to restrict safe, legal abortion out of existence, but things have been pretty stable for the women of Tennessee, a state that has 14 doctors providing abortion, compared with a mere eight in Alabama and two in Mississippi. Because of this, 1 in 4 women getting an abortion in Tennessee hails from out of state.
One major reason it’s relatively easy to get a safe abortion in Tennessee is a state Supreme Court decision in 2000 that held that “a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution,” meaning that medically unnecessary abortion restrictions are largely unconstitutional.
Now anti-choicers are pushing back, advocating for a ballot measure called Amendment 1 that would amend the state constitution to single out abortion as the one medical procedure not covered by the privacy rights enshrined elsewhere in the state constitution. “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion,” reads the proposed amendment, and activists on both sides of the issue are pouring money into the campaign to determine whether state legislators can be free to pass laws restricting safe abortion access in the state. “We’ve been trying to put this back to a neutral position to say that the legislators should be the ones setting this policy, not liberal courts,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told an audience at a fundraiser last November.
So far, polling data shows that the anti-abortion side isn’t doing well in the polls, with 71 percent of voters opposing attempts to give the legislature more power to regulate abortion and even a majority of Republicans disliking this proposed amendment.
Anti-choice efforts to turn public opinion in their favor seem misguided, if you ask me. According to ThinkProgress, “They’ve even enlisted Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who star in the TLC reality show ‘19 Kids and Counting,’ to drum up public support for Amendment 1.” People may like that TV show, but if you’re trying to persuade voters to support anti-choice laws, it’s probably not wise to put extremist Christian fundamentalists who believe you should have a bazillion children at the front of your campaign. For most of us, living like the Duggars sounds like a nightmare, regardless of your position on abortion. Putting them out front only serves to confirm people’s worst fears about the end goals of the anti-choice movement.
Much to the chagrin of women’s rights advocates, Hobby Lobby has won its legal battle — but claims of “victory” for religious freedom must be emended. Make no mistake: This is no victory for the freedom to exercise Christian principles. Though employers like Hobby Lobby are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans on the basis of religious objection, they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do. While Christians are not compelled by their faith to engage in religious practices that impose upon the freedoms of others, they are compelled — by their belief that all persons, men and women, are created in the image of God — to oppose discrimination.
Some corporations that have objected to the contraceptive requirements of the Affordable Care Act, like Hobby Lobby, claim that they do not wish to discriminate against women by denying them access to contraceptives generally, and that their opposition is merely to abortion. However, their understanding of which medications act as abortifacients rests on an outdated understanding of medical science and is at odds with the facts of the matter. Use of these contraceptive methods is not tantamount to abortion, and moreover, providing women with access to safe, reliable contraceptives for free drastically reduces the actual abortion rate.
It is likely that women will ultimately retain coverage, anyhow, though religious employers are now able to legally withhold it. The Supreme Court assumed in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the government has a compelling interest in ensuring that women have full access to preventive care. It appears that a majority of the court believes that this interest is compelling. The issue still under real legal dispute is how that coverage will be provided.
One suggestion is that the Obama administration extend to closely held, for-profit corporations the same accommodation already in place for religiously affiliated nonprofits. If a corporation objects, on religious grounds, to covering contraceptives in its health plan, it can fill out a two-page form, with five questions (two of which are providing a signature and the date), self-certifying that it meets the requirements for religious accommodation. By submitting this form, employees will be provided contraceptive coverage directly from their insurance company rather than through their employer.
This very exemption, however, currently faces its own legal threat from some Christian religious organizations, which claim that notifying the government of their objections to contraceptive use is itself religiously objectionable, as doing so will “trigger” the provision of coverage by a third party. The University of Notre Dame and Wheaton College are among several institutions that have brought such challenges. There is very little sense to be made of claims that your freedom of religion is substantially burdened by someone else’s providing services that you do not want to provide yourself. This suggests that the legal challenges are not merely aimed at allowing corporations to abstain from facilitating behavior they deem immoral but instead are seeking to effectively prevent women from engaging in that “immoral” behavior by keeping financial barriers for women, and administrative barriers for the government, in place.
This is economic coercion. Opponents to the contraceptive mandate have insisted that women remain free to purchase whatever health care services they choose, but this is woefully insensitive to the reality that low-income women and families face. For these women, there is a very large difference between what is available to them for purchase in principle and in effect. It is easy for those who do not regularly face desperate decisions due to financial insecurity or medical complexities to forget the difference. An intrauterine device, for example, can cost a low-income full-time worker more than a month’s wages. For some women, this is both the safest and most effective medical option, yet hopelessly unaffordable.
This kind of economic coercion is distinctly at odds with Christian principles. There is only one incident described in the Christian scriptures where Jesus is represented as employing coercive force, and it was not used to prevent people from engaging in sin. It was used, instead, to prevent people from dishonoring God by exploiting religious practice for personal gain. The gospels describe Jesus’ reaction to those who sought to profit from the Passover pilgrimage to the temple as fierce: “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’” This is where corporations that claim their operations constitute religious practice of the Christian faith ought to take note.
Read previous contributions to this series.
Hobby Lobby offered coverage for some of the contraceptives it now claims its religious faith forbids it to have any association with, until shortly after the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom asked it if it would be interested in filing suit. The company continues to profit from investments in the manufacturers of the “objectionable” contraceptives through the 401(k) plan it offers its employees. Recently, Hobby Lobby has faced legal trouble for false advertising. It has built a fortune, in large part, by selling goods manufactured in China, infamous for its poor labor conditions and related human rights violations. These are the practices of a corporation that will emphasize the Christian faith of its owners when convenient and profitable, but set that faith aside when it would be costly to do otherwise.
Hobby Lobby is not the only corporation which has objected to the law through what seems to be quite selective applications of Christian principle. Offering health care coverage as called for by the Affordable Care Act is morally permissible according to the Catholic philosophical tradition, and the sincerity of institutions like the University of Notre Dame is questionable.
The more pressing question religious corporations should ask themselves is whether denying women comprehensive health care while providing it to men, and so failing to respect women’s inherent dignity and equality, is consistent with their religious values. Since the Supreme Court focused on the practical effects at stake (that is, whether women would be able to obtain coverage elsewhere, and thus by a less restrictive means) rather than on the expressive function of the law, Hobby Lobby is now free to discriminate in its provision of health care. But the question remains, why would it want to?
Since Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger coined the term “birth control” in 1914, contraception has truly revolutionized women’s lives in the United States, and around the world. Brush up on your birth control history, and see just how far we’ve come in 100 years.
Anyone who thinks you can just walk into a convenience store and get the affordable birth control you need clearly has no understanding about the reality of women’s lives — and no business making decisions about them.
Have you been hearing this line as much as we have? Share this.
Before filing their lawsuit, Mother Jones reported that the company’s health insurance covered at least two of the contraceptive drugs to which they now claim to have grave objections. Moreover, the owners’ newfound religious convictions seem to apply only to Obamacare: They’ve continued to invest retirement funds in contraceptive manufacturers and to sell products made in China, where women are frequently subject to forced abortions.
The craft giant’s lawyer claimed during oral arguments that contraception is uniquely “fraught with religious controversy.” But polling shows that nearly all Christians in America have used birth control — and that the majority of them support requiring employers to include contraceptives in their health insurance plans.
So how did the court — and the media — come to be so credulous towards such fringe and insincere claims of Christian piety?
Shameless efforts to dress up bigotry in religious garb go back to the very beginnings of the religious right, which is younger than a lot of people think. The modern politicized religious right movement was born in the 1970s in a battle over whether all-white “Christian schools” could exclude black students while maintaining tax-exempt status as religious organizations.
In the subsequent years, the religious right’s strategists grew savvier, recasting their agenda as a defense of “family values” and of “unborn babies.” And backed by deep-pocketed conservative donors, they set about building a powerful political, legal, and communications empire — largely bypassing existing church and denominational structures and relying instead on creative use of then-new communications technologies like direct mail, cable television, and talk radio.
Meanwhile, after playing a leading role in the social movements of the 1960s, mainline protestant denominations have since been devastated by generational decline, bureaucratic dysfunction, and internal battles, especially over the inclusion of LGBT people in church life and ministry. (Sensing weakness, outside religious-right organizations have contributed much of the money and infrastructure on the conservative side of these fights.)
In the Roman Catholic Church, the progressive excitement engendered by Vatican II gradually gave way to conservative retrenchment under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, ultimately resulting in a right-wing bishops’ conference today that would be unrecognizable to the Catholic social activists of earlier decades. Increasingly, right-wing pressure groups have launched McCarthyist campaigns accusing Catholic educators and community organizers of violating official church teaching on marriage and abortion.
But while business and religious conservatives have consistently made common cause, secular progressives have grown increasingly disinterested in, or even hostile to, Christian faith. In reaction to the religious right, too many progressive leaders have adopted unhelpful keep-your-bibles-out-of-our-bedrooms rhetoric — and too many progressive foundations and donors have ruled out investing in anything religious. (One wonders how many checkbooks would open up today for a Baptist pastor from Montgomery, Alabama who gives sermons about how America must be born again.)
So today’s debates about birth control (which nearly all Christians support using) or anti-gay discrimination (which most Christians oppose) are thus a byproduct of four decades of institutional religious history. And even before Hobby Lobby, the right’s best strategists have been planning to spend the next decade in a fight to redefine “religious freedom” so as to create a backdoor for all kinds of noxious and discriminatory practices, not just in private employment but in the provision of healthcare and social services.
In a country where over 70 percent of people continue to identify as Christians, progressives simply cannot afford to continue ceding Christianity to the right.
The good news is that there are nascent signs of a progressive reawakening in American Christianity. Over the last decade, most mainline protestant denominations have moved decisively towards LGBT equality, and their leaders increasingly realize that their survival depends on their presenting a vital and visible alternative to the religious right. Catholics have been electrified not only by Pope Francis’s sudden shift in tone about LGBT people, but also by his increased emphasis on economic justice. Even among white evangelicals, there is growing evidence of a fatigue with culture-war politics and a growing interest in social-justice issues like human trafficking.
After all: Jesus Christ ministered to the poor, broke bread with outcasts, scolded the rich, blessed the meek, and counted women among his disciples. There are no shortage of Christians in America who seek to follow his example — and it’s time they had a seat at the table.
Michael Sherrard is the executive director of Faithful America, an online community with over 300,000 members, dedicated to reclaiming Christian faith as a force for social and economic justice. A veteran online organizer, he was recently named one of “14 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2014” by the Center for American Progress.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision that closely held corporations like Hobby Lobby can refuse to offer coverage for certain types of contraception based on their owners’ religious beliefs, thousands of people have made it clear they’re unhappy with the ruling. Over the past two weeks, people have rallied at Hobby Lobby locations across the country and called for widespread boycotts of its products.
But in addition to those more traditional acts of protest, some activists are also getting pretty creative. Here are some of the more unusual ways they’re making their feelings known:
1. Making their own IUDs out of pipe cleaners.
Since Hobby Lobby will no longer cover intrauterine devices (IUDs) for their female employees, one satirical video has some tips for workers who may need a new option. “Miss Sandy from Hobby Lobby” — an entirely fictional character — explains how to use pipe cleaners, glue guns, googly eyes, and glitter to create a homemade IUD. The video’s creators specify that all of those craft supplies were actually purchased from Michael’s, one of Hobby Lobby’s direct competitors. Some of the protesters who showed up to rally outside of their local Hobby Lobby stores this past week brought along their own IUDs fashioned out of craft supplies, too.
2. Rearranging craft displays to spell out pro-choice messages.
Several customers have visited Hobby Lobby stores to use the products on the shelves to spell out responses to the recent ruling. Several protesters have rearranged wooden blocks to spell the word “pro-choice.” Another opted for “all women deserve birth control.” Photos of the creative displays spread quickly on social media. “Yes, you can write a letter. Yes, you can picket somewhere,” Jasmine Shea, a New York resident who opted for this particular form of protest, noted in a recent interview with the Washington Post. “But I’m sure Hobby Lobby doesn’t want people doing this in their stores. I think someone there will take notice.”
3. Handing out birth control.
Protesters across the country are bringing condoms to Hobby Lobby stores and either handing them out to customers or leaving them on the shelves. Even religious leaders are getting in on the action. In Illinois, a group of clergy handed out condoms in front of a Hobby Lobby to make the point that not all people of faith are opposed to contraception, even though Hobby Lobby supporters claim that the right to drop coverage for birth control is a matter of religious liberty.
4. Leading prayer vigils outside of Hobby Lobby.
In keeping with the idea that not all religious people support the Hobby Lobby decision, a group of Christians in Oklahoma — the same state where the crafts chain was founded —held a prayer vigil outside of the store. A local retired Baptist minister led the prayers, pointing out that “there are a lot of Christians and denominations that are opposed to what the Supreme Court has done.” The progressive Christian group Faithful America, which organized that event, also attempted to deliver tens of thousands of petition signatures to Hobby Lobby’s flagship store from people of faith who oppose the ruling.
5. Filming X-rated videos.
Even pornography websites have something to say about the recent Hobby Lobby ruling. Porn star Ela Darling partnered with the Funny or Die team to film an X-rated video called “How to Get Contraception From Hobby Lobby.” Like Miss Sandy, Darling also favors making homemade birth control out of craft supplies — she ends up creating a “sperm free zone” out of Popsicle sticks — but her spoof isn’t as safe for work due to brief nudity.
6. Knitting a uterus to mail to Hobby Lobby.
Some activists are using their knitting skills to send a message to Hobby Lobby; they’re creating replicas of uteri and mailing them to the store. This creative tactic didn’t originate with the Hobby Lobby ruling — a group of knitters named “Government Free VJJ” has already been creating these for lawmakers who support anti-abortion laws that infringe on women’s reproductive lives. And if activists are looking for a slightly less difficult crafty protest, Bitch Magazine has several other tongue-in-cheek ideas.
The people protesting Hobby Lobby in many ways are true heroes to be commended for their actions.
Throughout the ongoing debate over Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage requirement, a common theme has emerged among many of Hobby Lobby’s supporters: the idea that ensuring access to affordable birth control is harmful to society because it leads to promiscuity and infidelity. Several right-wing groups filed amicus briefs in favor of the crafts chain arguing that women simply shouldn’t be having consequence-free sex. But where exactly does this idea come from? One research paper offers a theory.
According to new research published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, the attitude that women shouldn’t be having sex can at least partly be traced back to the idea that women are supposed to be economically dependent on men. The researchers suggest that this link may drive conservative religious communities’ insistence on sexual purity.
After surveying Americans about their attitudes toward promiscuity — asking them whether they agreed with statements like “It is fine for a woman to have sex with a man she has just met, if they both want to” — the researchers also asked them whether they believed women tend to rely on income from their male partner. They found that the people who believe that casual sex is wrong also tend to believe that women need a partner to support them financially. Within that worldview, sex outside of a serious monogamous relationship is simply too risky. If women don’t have “paternity certainty,” then how will they know who they need to rely on to support them and their future child?
The researchers conclude that this outdated attitude toward women’s pregnancy risks and financial needs hasn’t totally gone away, despite the fact that modern contraception, legal abortion rights, and greater workplace equality have created an entirely different society.
“The beliefs may persist due to cultural evolutionary adaptive lag, that is, because the environment has changed faster than the moral system,” the paper concludes. “Religious and conservative moral systems may be anti-promiscuity because they themselves arose in environments where females depended heavily on male investment.”
In response to the right-wing claims that women who support Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate are “sluts” who want the government to fund their sex lives, many birth control proponents have focused on the medical reasons that women need access to contraception. But there’s also a growing push to confront the deep-seated resistance to acknowledging women’s sex lives. “Women like sex. Stop making ‘health’ excuses for why we use birth control,” feminist writer Jessica Valenti argues in a Guardian column published this week.
On top of the changing societal norms that ensure women don’t actually have to be guided by “paternity certainy” anymore, there’s also scientific evidence that increasing access to birth control doesn’t have any relationship to promiscuity. A large study published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal earlier this year found that giving women access to no-cost contraception doesn’t lead them to make riskier sexual choices. The researchers noted their results should dispel social conservatives’ fears that the risk of pregnancy is “the only thing standing between women and promiscuity.”
The legislation will be sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO). According to a summary reviewed by TPM, it prohibits employers from refusing to provide health services, including contraception, to their employees if required by federal law. It clarifies that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the basis for the Supreme Court’s ruling against the mandate, doesn’t permit businesses to opt out of laws they may object to.
The legislation also puts the kibosh on legal challenges by religious nonprofits, like Wheaton College, instead declaring that the accommodation they’re provided under the law is sufficient to respect their religious liberties. (It lets them pass the cost on to the insurer or third party administrator if they object.) Houses of worship are exempt from the mandate.
This bill will restore the original legal guarantee that women have access to contraceptive coverage through their employment-based insurance plans and will protect coverage of other health services from employer interference as well, according to the summary.
"The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision opened the door to unprecedented corporate intrusion into our private lives," Udall, who faces a tough battle for reelection in November, said in a statement to TPM. "My common-sense proposal will keep women’s private health decisions out of corporate board rooms, because your boss shouldn’t be able to dictate what is best for you and your family."
A Democratic Senate aide said Udall is committed to working with leadership to “bring this to the floor as quickly as possible.”
The Murray-Udall proposal stops short of amending RFRA — the 1993 law which says laws that substantially burden a person’s practice of religion must be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest — as Democrats had considered doing.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Tuesday called the Supreme Court ruling on Hobby Lobby “outrageous” and promised to bring up the Democrats’ legislative response for a vote in the near future.
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM