I’ve seen a lot of ignorant fearmongering over at Faux “news” in the issue of immigration, border security and whether or not members of ISIS might decide to cross our southern border that the Republicans are constantly complaining isn’t secure enough to suit them, but this one from this Saturday’s Bulls & Bears takes the cake.
Tracy Byrnes, who is one of the regular panel members on that show actually managed to make one of the other regulars, Gary B. Smith, sound almost sane in comparison with this unhinged rant about how ISIS members are supposedly going to train the children who have been fleeing the violence in Central America to come to the United States. Apparently after first becoming mooching welfare queens, the children will do the bidding of their ISIS terrorist masters and kill all of us because they’re going to be taught to hate Americans.
From the 09.20.2014 edition of FNC’s Bulls and Bears:
Are you kidding me right now Fox News?
Should’ve saw this coming. As per usual Fox News is being incredibly ignorant (and racist) and is spinning this to make the police seem like the victims here and like the protesters are rioting lunatics.
When I first saw this image I was hoping it was fake, but after seeing that article, I just don’t know.
Fucking hell, Fox News. Welp, the racists’ at it again.
Insanely hateful racist Todd Starnes slanders President Obama for sending condolences to Mike Brown
Fixed Noise commentator Todd Starnes embarrasses this country yet again by slandering President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for the events in Ferguson, Missouri:
Holder vows to monitor shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Why didn’t he monitor the “flash mob” attacks or knockout attacks. #doublestandard— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 11, 2014
Hey Ferguson, Missouri shopkeepers — watch this before you decide to rebuild. http://t.co/F6onzSGujI— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 11, 2014
Street Justice in Ferguson, MO means looting the local Taco Bell. Business owners should be running for the border.— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 11, 2014
Will Holder investigate the reporter who got beat or the death threats against the mayor or the mob shouting ‘Kill the Police’? #ferguson— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 11, 2014
Why isn’t Holder standing in solidarity with the businesses that were looted and burned? #ferguson— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 12, 2014
Why isn’t Holder denouncing the violent attack on a St. Louis new photographer and videographer? #ferguson— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 12, 2014
Obama releases statement mourning death of Michael Brown — calls it heartbreaking.— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 12, 2014
First Obama speaks out for the Harvard professor - then Trayvon - and now Michael Brown. I’m sensing a pattern…— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 12, 2014
Obama sends “deep condolences” to family of MO teen killed after allegedly attacking police officer. No condolences for the cop.— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 12, 2014
Why didn’t Obama release a statement offering support to the business owners whose stores were looted?— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 12, 2014
Why didn’t Obama release a statement supporting the journalists who were attacked by the angry mob?— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 12, 2014
I don’t seem to recall Obama issuing a statement on behalf of this guy http://t.co/Oxl36Yezsi— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 13, 2014
The newly elected House Majority Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), refused to rule out impeaching President Obama on Sunday, telling Fox News that the president has acted unilaterally and illegally, exceeding his constitutional authority.
“Ultimately, what we want to do is see the president follow his own laws,” Scalise said. “He took an oath to follow the law of the land. The Supreme Court unanimously said 12 times the president overreached and did things he doesn’t have the authority to do,” he added, referring to Court rulings finding that Obama overstepped his executive authority.
Scalise explained that House Republicans are “going to continue to be a check and balance against this administration,” but would not say whether the chamber would consider impeaching Obama:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Impeachment is off the table?
SCALISE: The White House wants to talk about impeachment and they’re trying to fund raise off that, too.
WALLACE: I’m asking you, sir.
SCALISE: The White House will do anything they can to change the topic away from the president’s failed agenda. People paying higher costs for food, for well health care, for gas at the pump. The president isn’t softballing the problems. We’re going to try to solve problems for everyday people. I would like to see the president engaged in that, too, that’s his job, but he wants to change the topic, talk about things like that.
Democrats have been raising millions of dollars since some conservative Republicans — most prominently Sarah Palin — floated the prospect of impeachment. On Friday, Dan Pfeiffer, a top White House aide, even brought up the possibility, telling reporters, “It would be foolish to discount the possibility that the Republicans would consider going down that path.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has continuously ruled out the idea, though he is suing the administration for allegedly exceeding its authority in delaying a provision of the Affordable Care Act.
Music Industry Experts Say Pants-Pooping Draft Dodger Ted Nugent's Ongoing Diatribes Damaging Concert Promotion
Ted Nugent’s recent spate of offensive and racist comments that have sparked protests and canceled shows are damaging his image and could well cripple his income if he continues, according to veteran concert promoters and industry journalists.
In a week when two casinos operated by different Native American tribes canceled three separate Nugent shows set for next month and dozens protested a concert in New Jersey, concert touring experts say the National Rifle Association board member and conservative commentator is doing real damage to his money-earning potential.
"If you’re going to say something political, you’re going to have some backlash, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you say," said Larry Magid, a Philadelphia-based promoter who has handled Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, and Bette Midler. "Nugent seems to have taken it to extremes. I don’t know that you can blame anyone for not wanting to play him for all of the baggage that he brings."
Magid, who also organized the famed 1985 Live Aid benefit show in Philadelphia, said Nugent was never a huge concert draw, but his declaration earlier this year that President Barack Obama is a "subhuman mongrel"may mark a turning point.
"I don’t know if that is frustration at not being a viable act, but it is stupid," Magid said of Nugent. "If you are a musician, you are trying to bring your music, your art to a broad group of people. It is one thing to take a stance, it is another thing when you are talking about the president of the United States.
"For all of the people enamored with him, there are 20 or 30 or 40 times that who are not enamored with him. To me, it’s not bright. If I’m a promoter I have to think two or three or four times before I take a shot with this performer."
"No one should be surprised by any of this," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar USA, which tracks concert touring receipts. "It’s a free country and Nugent has always had a big mouth. But if he keeps making incendiary statements his future tours may be limited to NRA conventions and Fox News events."
Bongiovanni said the public reaction is not unusual: “Why be surprised if you can’t sell tickets to them after you insult people who are gay, animal rights, or gun control advocates, or just in the majority of people who voted for Obama?”
Although Nugent has long been a hardline conservative and pro-gun advocate, his “subhuman mongrel” comments triggered a massive media firestorm and led prominent Republicans to disassociate themselves from the rocker earlier this year. Nugent’s offensive and racist comments have more recently caused a backlash against his concerts.
Among the results:
- Three Nugent concerts scheduled in early August at Native American tribe-owned casinos in Washington and Idaho were canceled this week due to the performer’s commentary. Puyallup Tribe Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud has said Nugent is a “jackass” and will never be booked again.
- Earlier this summer controversy surrounded a concert scheduled for an Oshkosh, WI, music festival after a letter to the editor decrying Nugent’s concert received heightened attention. Nugent subsequently described his critics as “unclean vermin.”
- "Picket signs lined the street" outside a July 22 concert in New Jersey as Nugent was greeted by “at least 75 protestors.”
- While Nugent will perform at The Toledo Blade’s Northwest Ohio Rib-Off festival next month, the paper’s sales director told Media Matters he had received numerous complaints and strongly suggested Nugent would never be booked again.
- The City of Longview, TX in March canceled Nugent’s concert at a Fourth of July festival and paid him $16,000 (reportedly half his fee) not to show up.
John Scher of Metropolitan Entertainment Consultants, a longtime New Jersey promoter who has booked Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Billy Joel, said he’s never seen such a public backlash in his 40 years promoting concerts.
"I can’t really, really recall this kind of reaction because of political beliefs," Scher said, later adding, "All in all, I don’t think it can be a plus. Where’s the tipping point? I think he’ll find it will probably shrink to the places where his views are not so contrary to the views of the general population. You might see him doing most of his touring in the south or certain states in the west that are gun-toting conservatives. In the Northeast and in California he is probably not getting booked as much … I don’t see from an overall point of view how he is helping himself."
Michael Maietta, a promoter at Creative Entertainment Group in New York, which has handled the Neville Brothers, John Popper, and George Thorogood, said the financial impact is obvious when a musician offends so many people.
"Of course it will have an effect on how much money Ted will make going forward if he is not getting booked," Maietta said via email. "Soft ticket events, such as fairs and township gigs will get pressure not to book him with public dollars."
Steve Knopper, a Rolling Stone contributing editor who covers the rock concert business, said this is clearly a trend.
"It does seem like, whether it is a movement or people deciding to be offended by this en masse, it seems like it’s having an impact and that can’t be good," Knopper said. "I don’t know if Ted Nugent’s main source of income is from concerts, but the way right now to make money in the music business is to tour."
Knopper added, “I’m guessing that he needs to tour to make money and if his comments are preventing him from doing that he may well have to rethink how he handles his public image. He has said some incredibly offensive stuff in the past few years, now maybe it is hitting home.”
H/T: Joe Strupp at MMFA
This really happened: A Fox News host shows off his cufflinks that portray a caveman dragging a woman by the hair.
At least 15 Fox News personalities recently campaigned with organizations that were either created or heavily-funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.
The host of Fox & Friends on Sunday fell for an Internet hoax that feminists had hatched a plot for bringing down Father’s Day, and possibly “ending men” altogether. As Death and Taxes reported on Friday, pranksters at the website 4Chan had created…
Fox News provided ample coverage of two separate instances of U.S. Marines imprisoned in Mexico on gun charges, using the stories to criticize the Obama administration for what was deemed an inadequate response to each situation. But Fox paid no attention to a nearly identical case of a jailed U.S. soldier that occurred during the Bush administration.
On March 31, Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi was arrested after he claimed he accidentally crossed into Mexico with personal firearms in his car, and has been held in a Mexican prison on weapons charges since that time.
Fox News heavily covered the story. A Nexis search of the network’s evening programming showed that since March 31, there have been at least 31 segments about Tahmooressi’s detainment, including phone interviews with Tahmooressi, his mother, and his friends. Fox host Greta Van Susteren demanded President Obama take action to free the Marine on the May 20 edition of Fox’s On the Record. Later on the show, Fox contributor Allen West bashed Obama and Secretary of State Kerry as “neutered pajama-boy leaders.”
More recently, Fox ramped up its criticism of the purported lack of action to more absurd levels, conducting polling asking whether the border with Mexico should be closed until Tahmooressi is returned, and one Fox host going so far as to suggest that an exchange of “five jailed illegal immigrants” with Mexico for his return, a reference to the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity after several years.
And in 2012, after U.S. Marine Jon Hammar was arrested in Mexico for carrying an antique shotgun across the border, Fox devoted at least 35 evening programming segments to Hammar, according to Nexis, often similarly complaining about the Obama administration response.
But when Spc. Richard Torres was arrested after crossing into Mexico in a similar alleged accident in mid-2008, Fox News’ evening shows voiced no such criticism over the failure of the Bush administration to act quickly to secure his release. In fact, a search of Nexis shows that they never covered the story at all, an omission that cannot be explained away by differences in the cases, as the circumstances of are remarkably similar.
From a May 30 CNN report on Tahmooressi’s arrest:
The Marine’s mom said he accidentally crossed into Mexico with three personal firearms — all bought legally in the U.S.
The 25-year-old had intended to drive to meet friends in San Ysidro, California, on March 31.
He was moving from Florida to California in the hope of getting a job and continuing treatment he had just begun for post traumatic stress related to his two combat tours, she said.
With all his possessions in his truck, Tahmooressi accidentally drove across the border, she said.
When he realized his mistake, his mother said, he dialed 911 and asked the operator to help him. No help came, Jill Tahmooressi said. Her son first encountered Mexican customs agents, she said, and he believed they understood that he’d made an innocent error. They seemed to be getting an escort car to help him, she said.
But officers with the Mexican military interfered, she told “New Day,” and her son was arrested.
And from a May 10, 2008, Houston Chronicle report on Torres’ arrest:
When he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, Spc. Richard Torres was carrying a small arsenal in his car: an AR-15 assault rifle, a .45-caliber handgun, 171 rounds of ammunition, several cartridges and three knives.
At a checkpoint, Torres didn’t try to hide the weapons. But he insisted he hadn’t meant to cross the border with the guns, which in Mexico are restricted for use only by the military. While searching for parking in El Paso, he said, he inadvertently drove onto a bridge leading to Mexico and could not turn around.
Now the Iraq veteran is in a Mexican jail while a judge decides whether to believe his account: that an experienced soldier accidentally ended up in a border town where drug cartels pay top dollar for exactly the kind of high-powered weapons he happened to have.
Torres ultimately spent a little more than a month in jail before he was released.
Methodology: On June 4, Media Matters searched Fox News Network transcriptsseparately for “Andrew Tahmooressi,” “Jon Hammar,” and “Richard Torres” for all available dates. Thirty-one results were found for “Andrew Tahmooressi,” 35 results were found for “Jon Hammar,” and zero results were found for “Richard Torres.”
h/t: Zachary Pleat at RWW
Fox News regular Keith Ablow speculated on Wednesday morning that President Obama orchestrated the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay because the commander-in-chief “doesn’t affiliate with patriotism” and “wants out of America.”
“Barack Obama does not have the will of the American people, Americanism in his soul,” Ablow, a forensic psychiatrist who is part of the Fox News Medical A-Team, explained. “And this swap, somebody who may not feel very American for five people who definitely don’t, is symptomatic of that.”
Referencing evidence that Bergdahl may have deserted his brigade in Afghanistan and grew disillusioned with America’s war mission, Ablow speculated that the Bergdahl family “may have a tendency to distance oneself from institutions, to diminish the rule of law and to elevate the individual above all else.” He also specifically referenced Bowe Bergdahl’s history of dancing in a ballet to suggest that he is narcissistic.
Republicans and conservatives have presented a united front against Obama’s prisoner swap, but Fox News has taken the criticism to new heights, suggesting that Obama should be impeached for the trade and that Robert Bergdahl, Bowe’s father, looks like a member of the Taliban.
The Supreme Court will soon decide Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, a case that could let owners of for-profit, secular corporations ignore the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and refuse to provide health insurance that covers preventive benefits like contraception. Right-wing media continue to advance multiple myths to support the owners of Hobby Lobby, despite the fact that these arguments have been repeatedly debunked by legal experts, religious scholars, and medical professionals.
MYTH: A Decision That “Closely Held” For-Profit, Secular Corporations Have Religious Exercise Rights Is A Reasonable Compromise Under The Law
The American Spectator: “A Majority Of The Justices … Were Sympathetic To The Claims” Of Hobby Lobby. Following the oral arguments in Hobby Lobby, the right-wing American Spectator seemed pleased with the conservative justices’ interest in a “compromise” that would deliver a victory to the “closely-held” craft store chain, supposedly without the decision impacting other publicly traded companies:
Ironically, despite the transparent partisanship of [Supreme Court Justices] Sotomayor, Kagan, and Ginsburg, it was clear that a majority of the justices were at least sympathetic to the claims of the two companies. As Reuters reports, “The U.S. Supreme Court signaled on Tuesday it may allow corporations to mount religious objections to government action, possibly paving the way for companies to avoid covering employees’ birth control as required under Obamacare.”
This conclusion was largely due to a suggestion, by Chief Justice Roberts, that it would be possible to rule in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga based on their status as closely held private corporations, while leaving the question of how to deal with corporations whose shares are publicly traded in the unlikely event that such an entity claimed to have religious objections to some federal mandate. Such a ruling he said, would “avoid all the problems” outlined by the Solicitor General if the justices rule against the Obama administration in the cases argued yesterday.
[Justice] Kennedy was particularly interested in the rationale behind exempting some entities from the contraception mandate while declining to exempt others: “You have exempted a whole class of corporations and you’ve done so under your view not because of RFRA. … Now, what kind of constitutional structure do we have if the Congress can give an agency the power to grant or not grant a religious exemption based on what the agency determined?” Justice Scalia also indicated that he was uncomfortable with selective exemptions. [The American Spectator, 3/26/14]
FACT: Such A “Compromise” Would Still Be An Unprecedented Decision That Could Affect 90% Of All Corporations And Open A “Pandora’s Box” Of Discrimination
Constitutional Accountability Center: “This Court Has Never Held That Secular, For-Profit Corporations May Assert Rights Under The Free Exercise Clause.” The Constitutional Accountability Center pointed out in its amicus brief that a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would be unprecedented because the Court has never held that the Free Exercise Clause applies to non-religious, for-profit corporations. As the CAC explained, “protection of religious liberty has always been seen as a personal right”:
The corporate plaintiffs’ argument that they enjoy free exercise rights under the First Amendment and RFRA is in conflict with the text, history, and purpose of the First Amendment’s free exercise guarantee. Amicus submits this brief to demonstrate that throughout our nation’s history, corporations have been treated differently than individuals when it comes to fundamental, personal rights of conscience and human dignity. The First Amendment’s free exercise guarantee has always been viewed as a purely personal liberty, guaranteeing the right of individuals to worship and exercise religion consistent with the dictates of their conscience. It has never been considered a right possessed by secular, for-profit corporations. Indeed, in the more than 200 years since the First Amendment’s ratification, this Court has never held that secular, for-profit corporations may assert rights under the Free Exercise Clause.
History shows that the First Amendment’s explicit protection for “the free exercise” of religion, was intended to protect a basic right of human dignity and conscience, one of the “characteristic rights of freemen,” as George Washington put it. From the Founding until today, the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty has been seen as a personal right, inextricably linked to the human capacity to express devotion to a god and act on the basis of reason and conscience. Business corporations, quite properly, have never shared in this fundamental aspect of our constitutional tradition for the obvious reason that a business corporation lacks the basic human capacities — reason, dignity, and conscience — at the core of religious belief and thus the free exercise right.
To be sure, the owners of the corporate employers have their own personal free exercise rights, but those rights are not implicated by the contraception coverage requirement because federal law does not require the individuals who own a company to personally provide health care coverage or to satisfy any other legal obligation of the corporation. The law places requirements only on the corporate entities. [Brief of Constitutional Accountability Center in Support of the Government, 1/28/14, via Media Matters]
Cardozo School of Law Professor Marci A. Hamilton: This Compromise Will Lead To “National Unrest” Because “Over 90% Of Corporations Are ‘Closely Held’” Like Hobby Lobby. As Professor Hamilton explained, the idea that the Hobby Lobby case can be contained by applying the decision only to “closely held” companies is ridiculous — the overwhelming majority of corporations, like Hobby Lobby, meet this definition:
The Hobby Lobby case, of course, deals in part with the question whether the federal [Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)] was or is intended to benefit the owners of large, for-profit, nonreligious corporations. Hobby Lobby’s interpretation that it does would open the floodgates to exempt every business owner in the United States from the anti-discrimination laws, because there is no real middle ground. The forces behind Hobby Lobby have tried to argue that the Court should hold for Hobby Lobby because it is “closely held,” but that would not limit the holding to a few instances, because over 90% of corporations are “closely held.” If the Court sides with Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, it will open the Pandora’s box of corporate law. If owners of large, for-profit, nonreligious corporations can use their religious beliefs to shape their employee benefits to the detriment of women, expect arguments for differential pay and promotions for women and men, and new requirements for women’s dress at work from a wide array of religious believers. Why? Because RFRA invites believers to impose their beliefs on other believers in every sphere. [Justia.com, 5/15/2014]
Lambda Legal: Hobby Lobby’s Requested Exemption Would Set The Stage For “Denials of Equal Compensation, Health Care Access, And Other Equitable Treatment For LGBT People.” As Lambda Legal pointed out in its amicus brief to the Court in this case, allowing religious employers to pick and choose which laws they want to follow based on their religious faith could have consequences for anti-discrimination law and “worsen circumstances” for LGBT employees as well as those living with HIV:
Although some forms of religiously motivated discrimination doubtless have receded, our history tells a recurring saga of successive generations asking anew whether our protections for religious liberty warrant exemptions from laws protecting others’ liberty and right to participate equally in civic life. Our courts rightly and consistently have recognized that the answer to that question must remain the same: religious beliefs do not entitle any of us to exemptions from generally applicable laws protecting all of us.
The exemption the Companies seek here would mark a sea change — not only in allowing business owners’ religious views about family planning to burden decisions employees are entitled to make for themselves, but also in opening the door to similar denials of equal compensation, health care access, and other equitable treatment for LGBT people, persons with HIV, and anyone else whose family life or health need diverges from their employers’ religious convictions. As this Court has recognized, our federal laws and traditions have “afford[ed] constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education.” The Court’s explanation of the “respect the Constitution demands for the autonomy of the person in making these choices,” spotlights that the “person” whose autonomy is to be protected is the person herself — not the owner of the for-profit company that employs her.
The Companies’ proposed elevation of religious rights to the detriment of others’ needs would, in addition to its adverse effects for women’s health access and equality, worsen circumstances for LGBT people and people living with HIV that already are challenging. Responding to the request of the Department of Health & Human Services, Amicus Lambda Legal provided examples based on its litigation and the results of the first national survey to examine barriers to care confronting LGBT people and those with HIV. The survey results were shocking. [Brief of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in Support of the Government, 1/28/14]
MYTH: All That Legally Matters Is That The Owners “Sincerely Believe” Their Erroneous Claim That Contraceptives Are “Abortifacients”
National Review Online: It Is “Sufficient” That “Owners Sincerely Believe” Contraceptives Are Abortifacients. NRO editor Ramesh Ponnuru pushed the myth that, as long as the owners of Hobby Lobby “sincerely believe” that contraceptives work like “abortifacients,” then they are within their legal rights to refuse to provide coverage for those drugs:
During the oral argument Justice Kennedy asked whether, on the government’s theory of the case, it would be permissible to force companies to cover abortion in their insurance policies for their employees. I think the answer to that question is clearly yes. … The case itself concerns a company that objects to covering drugs that may cause abortion.
For the purpose of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it is a sufficient answer to these points that the owners sincerely believe that offering coverage for the disputed drugs would violate their consciences. They sincerely believe that stopping implantation is equivalent to abortion, that the drugs pose an unacceptable risk of stopping implantation, and that they would be unacceptably complicit in what they consider to be an evil if they offered the coverage. To judge the RFRA claim, judges must decide whether those beliefs justify an exemption from a legal requirement without evaluating the merits of those beliefs.
Pro-lifers object to “ending a pregnancy” and “abortion” because they entail causing the death of a living human organism, which is indisputably what the human embryo is pre-implantation. The “view” that preventing implantation causes the end of a human life in that sense is simply a fact. Of course the law does not define the human embryo as “a human life” in the sense of a person with rights, but of course it does not so define unborn children long past implantation. [National Review Online, 3/27/14, via Media Matters]
FACT: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act Requires More Than A Mere Showing Of “Sincere Belief”
Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Government Can Burden Religious Rights “In Furtherance Of A Compelling Governmental Interest.” Even if these corporations are granted unprecedented religious exercise rights, a court must be convinced the belief is substantially burdened and outweighs the health benefits, reproductive rights, and religious freedom of their employees.
(a) In general
Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section.
Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person —
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. [Religious Freedom Restoration Act, accessed 5/22/14]
Pew Research Religion And Public Life Project: RFRA Is A Multi-Part “Test” And The Court Is Considering Them All. Pew Research explained that the justices have been fully briefed by multiple parties that Hobby Lobby’s erroneous belief that the contraceptives at issue are abortifacients is only one part of the legal arguments they must weigh:
Even if RFRA does apply, the government contends, the contraception mandate does not rise to the level of being a “substantial religious burden” (which is required if the law is to apply) because the companies are significantly removed from an employee’s decision to use contraception. After all, they point out, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga do not directly provide contraception services to their workers. Instead, they offer their employees health insurance that covers a huge array of medical services, including birth control. In addition, any decision to use birth control rests with the employees, not the insurance providers or the companies.
Finally, the government argues, the mandate advances a compelling government interest because it is part of a comprehensive reform of the nation’s health care system, and granting the companies an exemption would deprive some Americans of important benefits provided by that reform. In this case, many women would not receive free contraceptive services, thwarting an important public health goal for the government - that all women have adequate access to effective birth control. As for RFRA’s requirement that the mandate be enforced in the least restrictive way possible, the government argues that any alternative to the insurance mandate would mean upending the ACA’s health care model (which revolves around employment-based health insurance) and replacing it with something different, a highly impractical option, according to the government. [Pew Research, 3/20/14]
MYTH: Religious Nonprofits And Churches Are Eligible For Exemptions, So Secular Corporations Should Be Able To Opt Out Too
Wall Street Journal: “Corporations Are Often Treated As ‘Persons’ For Legal Purposes” So Hobby Lobby Should Be Exempted From Providing Coverage For Contraceptives. Writing in support of Hobby Lobby, the WSJ editorial board misrepresented the government’s argument that it is impossible for a for-profit, secular corporation to exercise religious beliefs, calling it “remarkable” and “constitutionally unprecedented”:
[T]he Administration’s remarkable argument is that if a business is incorporated and for-profit, it forfeits normal constitutional rights. Hobby Lobby is a chain of craft stores that is a closely held, family-run corporation that tries to operate in accord with biblical principles.
Trying to distinguish between for-profit and nonprofit corporate forms for this regulatory purpose is constitutionally unprecedented. Corporations are often treated as “persons” for legal purposes, such as protecting free speech, and prosecutors can indict entire corporations for breaking laws. As Chief Justice John Roberts observed, minority-owned businesses can bring racial discrimination lawsuits. So why can’t Christian- or Muslim-owned businesses exercise religion? Solicitor General Donald Verrilli had no good answer.
Liberal Justices rolled out a parade of dubious hypotheticals, arguing that if a business can invoke religion to refuse to pay for abortifacients, couldn’t it also refuse to pay for blood transfusions or vaccinations? “Could an employer preclude the use of those items as well?” asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the day’s first question.
Yet no one is “precluding” anything. Contraception is cheap, plentiful and covered by most health plans. Most corporations are run for profit, not piety. Mr. Verrilli claimed the mandate is necessary to promote public health and gender equality, but HHS could have aided those goals without forcing a minority of business owners with moral aims to implicate themselves in what they consider to be grave moral wrongs. [Wall Street Journal, 3/25/14, via Media Matters]
FACT: Distinctions Between Religious And Secular Corporations Are Long-Established And Hobby Lobby’s Requested Exemption Would Swallow The Rule
Dahlia Lithwick: "Where Does It Stop? Why Does Your Boss’ Religious Freedom Allow Her To Curtail Your Own?" As Slate legal reporter Dahlia Lithwick pointed out, a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby’s religious owners could significantly impact the religious rights of all American employees, who could be burdened by their employers’ beliefs whether they agree with them or not:
Part of the problem, at least in the case of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, is that neither corporation was designed to do business as religious entities. It has been clear since the nation’s founding that corporations enjoy rights in connection to the purposes for which they were created — which is why the administration already exempts religious employers whose purpose is to inculcate religious values and chiefly employ and serve people who share their religious tenets. This is about companies that don’t meet those criteria. As the dissenters at the 10th Circuit observed, the fact that some “spiritual corporations” have some religious purposes doesn’t make every corporation a religious entity. And as professor Elizabeth Sepper of Washington University puts it in a new law-review article on the subject: “Corporations, as conglomerate entities, exist indefinitely and independently of their shareholders. They carry out acts and affect individual lives, and have an identity that is larger than their constituent parts. Walmart is Walmart, even when Sam Walton resigns.”
The rest of the problem is self-evident. Where does it stop? Why does your boss’ religious freedom allow her to curtail your own? The dangers in allowing employers to exercise a religious veto over employee health care are obvious. Can an employer deny you access to psychiatric care if he opposes it on religious grounds? To AIDS medications? To gelatin-covered pills? Constitutional protections of a single employer’s individual rights of conscience and belief become a bludgeon by which he can dictate the most intimate health decisions of his workers, whose own religious rights and constitutional freedoms become immaterial.
Religious liberty arguments have been historically advanced in defense of the rights of slaveholders, segregationists, creationism, anti-gay bigotry, and gender inequality. The religious convictions in each instance were indisputably deeply felt and fundamental. That didn’t mean they trumped everything else. As we have advanced as a society — beyond slavery, segregation, homophobia, and sexism — we have worked to accommodate religious belief while pushing for fundamental fairness and equality. It’s never been a perfect accommodation. It can’t be. But religious liberty interests are rarely the only — or even the most important — interests at play. And suggestions that unwilling employers are forcing birth control on unwilling employees misstates the truth: Employees who choose to use contraception (as 99 percent of us will do at some point) shouldn’t do so at the sufferance of their bosses. [Slate, 8/1/13]
Justice Elena Kagan: Allowing Hobby Lobby Their Requested Exemption Could Lead To “Opt Out[s]” Of Other Religious Groups To “The Entire U.S. Code.” Agreeing with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, during oral arguments Kagan warned that Hobby Lobby’s radical argument had no clear limiting principle, and could significantly weaken employee protections and anti-discrimination statutes:
And Justice Sotomayor is quite right that there are quite a number of medical treatments that difference [sic] religious groups object to. So one religious group could opt out of this and another religious group could opt out of that and everything would be piecemeal and nothing would be uniform.
Your understanding of this law, your interpretation of it, would essentially subject the entire U.S. Code to the highest test in constitutional law, to a compelling interest standard. So another employer comes in and that employer says, I have a religious objection to sex discrimination laws; and then another employer comes in, I have a religious objection to minimum wage laws; and then another, family leave; and then another, child labor laws. [Hobby Lobby Oral Arguments, 3/25/14]
Fox News Contributor Steve Hayes: The President Wants Health Insurance Plans To Cover Not Only “These Abortifacients,” But Abortion Too. In an appearance on Fox News with America’s Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer, Hayes described a different challenge to the contraception mandate by falsely equating contraception with abortifacients and speculated government coverage of “abortions themselves” was the president’s goal:
HEMMER: The point for this group of Catholic nuns is that if you make us provide birth control, not only does it violate our religious beliefs, but if we do not do it and adhere to the law, we will suffer fines that will cause us to go bankrupt.
HAYES: Right. And the administration — remember, back in the spring — proposed what they called a compromise, which would have allowed these non-profit groups to sort of certify that they weren’t providing, actually providing this contraceptive and abortifacient coverage but then the insurance companies would be doing so on their behalf and the argument that you hear from those representing this group and others is that’s not good enough because in effect what we would be doing is signing off and facilitating the coverage of these kinds of contraceptives and abortifacients for our employees.
HEMMER: Steve, just back up a little bit. Why did the administration think it was necessary to include this contraception mandate in the health care bill to begin with?
HAYES: Well, I think we’ve heard from the president pretty consistently that he believes that the government should be in the business of covering all of women’s health and that is to include birth control, other contraceptives and these abortifacients — and, I think if they had their way, abortions themselves. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 1/2/14, via Media Matters]
FACT: The Health Benefits Challenged In Hobby Lobby Are Contraceptives, Not Abortifacients
The New York Times: Contraceptives At Issue “Would Not Meet Abortion Opponents’ Definition Of Abortion-Inducing Drugs.” Although the plaintiffs argue that they “sincerely believe” that certain forms of birth control actually work by inducing an abortion, a report by the Times indicates this belief goes against scientific consensus:
Based on the belief that a fertilized egg is a person, some religious groups and conservative politicians say disrupting a fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the uterus is abortion, “the moral equivalent of homicide,” as Dr. Donna Harrison, who directs research for the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, put it. Mitt Romney recently called emergency contraceptives “abortive pills.” And two former Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, have made similar statements.
But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.
It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents’ definition of abortion-inducing drugs. In contrast, RU-486, a medication prescribed for terminating pregnancies, destroys implanted embryos.
The notion that morning-after pills prevent eggs from implanting stems from the Food and Drug Administration’s decision during the drug-approval process to mention that possibility on the label — despite lack of scientific proof, scientists say, and objections by the manufacturer of Plan B, the pill on the market the longest. Leading scientists say studies since then provide strong evidence that Plan B does not prevent implantation, and no proof that a newer type of pill, Ella, does. Some abortion opponents said they remain unconvinced. [The New York Times, 6/5/12]
National Catholic Reporter: Conflating Contraceptives With Abortifacients “Is Not Only Misleading, It Does A Profound Disservice To Women.” Prize-winning religious scholar Jamie L. Manson explained the “overwhelming scientific evidence” that debunks the myth that FDA-approved emergency contraception and IUDs covered under the ACA cause abortions:
The reality is that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the IUD and Plan B work only as contraceptives. Since Ella is new to the market, it has not been studied as extensively. But as of now, there is no scientific proof that Ella acts as an abortifacient, either.
There is only one drug approved to induce abortion. It is called RU-486 (mifepristone) and is not on the FDA’s list of approved contraception. It is available only by prescription and no employer is forced to pay for it as part of an employee health plan.
To understand why scientists believe that the IUD, Plan B and Ella are not abortifacients, it is important first to understand the biology of conception. In order for a woman to become pregnant after sexual intercourse, her ovaries must release an egg (ovulation). Sperm can remain viable inside her reproductive tract for five days. Therefore, if intercourse takes place up to five days before ovulation or within two days after, both sperm and egg are viable and the egg cell can be fertilized.
Now, just because an egg is fertilized doesn’t necessarily mean that it will develop into an embryo. For that to happen, the fertilized egg must be implanted into the endometrium that lines the uterus. Implantation happens seven days after fertilization, if it happens at all. Scientists estimate that, at a minimum, two-thirds of fertilized eggs fail to implant. Some scientists estimate that the number may even be as high as 80 percent, according to Discover Magazine.
For this reason, according to the medical definition, a woman is not considered pregnant until the developing embryo successfully implants the lining of the uterus. [National Catholic Reporter, 2/20/12]
Rich Lowry: Hobby Lobby Owners Are “Literally” Forced To Provide Coverage For Birth Control. National Review editor Rich Lowry mistakenly characterized the “contraception mandate” as unavoidable for companies like Hobby Lobby who object to contraception and want to “mind their own business”:
Not too long ago, the Greens of Oklahoma City were law-abiding people running an arts-and-crafts chain called Hobby Lobby.
They weren’t disturbing the peace, or denying anyone his or her rights. They were minding their own business — quite successfully and in keeping with their Christian faith. The roughly 600 Hobby Lobby stores stock Christian products, close on Sundays, and play Christian music.
Then one day Uncle Sam showed up to make an offer that the Greens couldn’t refuse — literally. As part of Obamacare, federal law demands that the chain cover contraceptives that the Greens consider abortifacients. The family decided it couldn’t comply with the law in good conscience, and its case is now before the Supreme Court.
Hobby Lobby went from an inoffensive business to a scofflaw and an alleged combatant in the “war on women” in no time at all — and without changing any significant employment or business practice. Thus is the transformation wrought by the coercive sweep of Obamacare, which risks doing as much damage to conscience rights as it has done to the insurance market.
Hobby Lobby is now bizarrely portrayed as wanting to barge into examination rooms. “Selectively denying insurance coverage for contraceptive methods an employer considers sinful,” the liberal legal lion Walter Dellinger wrote in the Washington Post, “makes the employer a party to a woman’s medical consultations.” And here the Greens thought they were just selling glue, scrapbook paper, beads, and the like. [National Review Online, 3/25/14]
FACT: Employers That Choose To Provide Health Insurance Must Cover Preventive Health Services — Including Contraceptives — Without Cost Sharing
American Religious Organizations: Hobby Lobby Does Not Have To Provide Health Insurance For Their Employees And Cannot “Hold Their Employees Hostage.” The federal government does not require Hobby Lobby to provide comprehensive health insurance at all — but if they do, a coalition of national religious organizations pointed out in their Hobby Lobby amicus brief that the company may not “hold their employees hostage”:
Plaintiffs’ arguments would undermine — not promote — religious liberty, by allowing employers to impose their owners’ religious beliefs on employees, many of whom will hold different moral and religious views on the use of contraception. This result would be especially unwelcome as the United States and its workforce become more religiously diverse.
Nor is there any good reason to allow this result: application of the contraception regulations to Plaintiffs would not substantially burden religious exercise. First, Plaintiffs are under no obligation to provide their employees with health insurance. If they object to certain types of coverage that must be included in employee health policies, they may stop offering insurance and pay a modest tax to the government instead; this tax is likely to be much cheaper than the cost of buying health insurance. Plaintiffs could pass along the savings to their employees in the form of higher salary, and Plaintiffs’ employees would be eligible to obtain health insurance — including coverage for contraception — on the public exchanges, often with government subsidies. What Plaintiffs may not do is hold their employees hostage: refusing to include coverage for contraception, but also blocking their employees from obtaining comprehensive, subsidized insurance elsewhere.
Second, even if Plaintiffs wish to continue offering insurance to their employees as part of their compensation, the contraception regulations do not substantially burden religious exercise. For several reasons, any connection between Plaintiffs and contraception is incidental and attenuated — and thus fails to produce a burden that is “substantial” as a matter of law. [Brief of Religious Organizations Supporting the Government, 1/28/14, via Media Matters]
Salon: This Challenge Is About A “Right-Wing Christian Agenda, “Not A Mandate To Cover Contrception. As reported by Salon, Hobby Lobby extensively funds “a political network of activist groups deeply engaged in pushing a Christian agenda into American law,” which includes not only the legal challenge to the ACA but also support for state laws that “allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians”:
Hobby Lobby appears to be going much further than protecting freedom, providing funding for a group that backs a political network of activist groups deeply engaged in pushing a Christian agenda into American law. The document shows entities related to the company to be two of the largest donors to the organization funding a right-wing Christian agenda investing tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars into a vast network of organizations working in concert to advance an agenda that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians and deny their employees contraceptives under a maximalist interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution.
That network of activist groups has succeeded in passing legislation in Arizona requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, banning taxpayer-funded insurance paying for government employees’ abortions, defining marriage as a union between a man and woman, and funding abstinence education. And there’s evidence that its efforts go well beyond the borders of the Copper State.
Outside of the Supreme Court case, little has been reported about Hobby Lobby’s political ties. The company is owned privately by the Green family and generates more than $3 billion per year in revenue from its 602 stores. The family proudly promotes its philanthropy to churches, ministries and Christian community centers, dedicating half of the company’s pretax earnings to Christian ministries. In 2007, Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO, billionaire David Green, pledged $70 million to Oral Roberts University, bailing out the debt-ridden evangelical university. In 2012, Forbes reported, “Hobby Lobby’s cash spigot currently makes [Green] the largest individual donor to evangelical causes in America.”
But until now, its political connections have been obscure.
Hobby Lobby-related entities are some of the biggest sources of funding to the National Christian Charitable Foundation, which backed groups that collaborated in promoting the anti-gay legislation in Arizona — recently vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer — that critics say would have legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians by businesses. [Salon, 3/27/14]
The Washington Post's Kathleen Parker: Obama Is Not Concerned About “Eroding Protections Of Religious Liberty” In America. In a February column, Parker claimed that the Obama administration’s decision to fight the Hobby Lobby case was evidence of the President’s “willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country,” as well as his desire to impose his own “religious rules” on the American people:
President Obama gave a lovely speech at the recent National Prayer Breakfast — and one is reluctant to criticize.
But pry my jaw from the floorboards.
Without a hint of irony, the president lamented eroding protections of religious liberty around the world.
Just not, apparently, in America.
Nary a mention of the legal challenges to religious liberty now in play between this administration and the Catholic Church and other religious groups, as well as private businesses that contest the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare.
Missing was any mention of Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor — whose cases have recently reached the U.S. Supreme Court and that reveal the Obama administration’s willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country.
[O]ne wonders why the Obama administration is so dedicated to forcing people to act against their own conscience. By requiring through the contraceptive mandate that some religious-affiliated groups provide health plans covering what they consider abortifacient contraceptives, isn’t the Obama administration effectively imposing its own religious rules? Thou shalt not protect unborn life. [The Washington Post, 2/7/14]
FACT: By Choosing To Violate The Law, Hobby Lobby Is Potentially Infringing On The Conscience And Religious Liberty Of Their Employees
Brigham Young University Law Professor Mark Gedicks: Hobby Lobby May Not “Shift The Cost Of Practicing A Religion From Those Who Believe It To Others Who Don’t.” According to religious law scholar Professor Gedicks, it would be inappropriate for the Supreme Court to interpret the ACA in a way that accommodates Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs but burdens those of their employees of a different or no faith, essentially “directing the women who work for these businesses to bear the cost of the owners’ anti-contraception religion”:
The First Amendment’s establishment clause prevents the government from requiring people to bear the burden of religions to which they do not belong and whose teachings they do not practice. To be sure, the U.S. government should accommodate religious beliefs and practices but only when doing so does not impose significant burdens on others. We accommodate, for example, those who object for religious reasons to sending their children to public school; no one is hurt if these families opt for a private school or home-schooling.
On the other hand, the Supreme Court consistently has condemned government accommodations that shift the cost of practicing a religion from those who believe it to others who don’t. For example, the court struck down a state law that gave employees an absolute right not to work on their chosen Sabbath because of the burden it imposed on others. If most employees were Christian and took Sunday off, the statute would have forced the remaining, non-Christian employees to work every Sunday. This, the court said, violated the establishment clause: “The First Amendment … gives no one the right to insist that in pursuit of their own interests, others must conform their conduct to his own religious necessities.”
If the court grants these businesses the religious exemption they seek, it essentially would be directing the women who work for these businesses to bear the cost of the owners’ anti-contraception religion. [The Washington Post, 1/15/14, via Media Matters]
Slate: The Supreme Court Has Held “That The Establishment Clause Prohibits Religious Accommodations That Impose Burdens On Third Parties.” According to law professors Micah Schwartzman and Nelson Tebbe, the Supreme Court has ruled in the past on religious actors hoping to impose burdens on those who worship differently or who don’t worship at all and “exempting Hobby Lobby from the contraception mandate will seriously burden precisely those women who are its intended beneficiaries”:
The Establishment Clause allows the government to accommodate religious actors in many situations by removing burdens on religious belief. But in an important line of cases that has not received the attention it deserves, the Supreme Court has insisted that the Establishment Clause prohibits religious accommodations that impose burdens on third parties — which is exactly what is happening here. Exempting Hobby Lobby from the contraception mandate will seriously burden precisely those women who are its intended beneficiaries. Supreme Court case law on the Establishment Clause does not allow that result. In one decision, among many, Chief Justice Warren Burger quoted Judge Learned Hand, saying “[t]he First Amendment gives no one the right to insist that in pursuit of their own interests others must conform their conduct to his own religious necessities.” That constitutional principle matters here in a particularly powerful way because Hobby Lobby is basing its claim on a federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But no statute, including one that purports to extend religious liberty, can be applied in a manner that conflicts with a provision of the Constitution.
Strangely, however, this last — crucial — reason to think that corporations do not enjoy religious freedom rights is almost entirely missing from the litigation and media coverage so far. [Slate, 11/26/13]
MYTH: The Contraception Mandate Is An Example Of Government “Getting Deeply Involved In The Reproductive Choices” Of Americans
Jonah Goldberg: The Government Is Now “Deeply Involved In The Reproductive Choices Of Nearly Every American.” According to NRO editor-at-large and current Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg, it is actually the federal government — not the religious owners of Hobby Lobby — who are inappropriately inserting themselves into private reproductive health care decisions:
Maybe someone can explain to me how, exactly, conservatives are the aggressors in the culture war? In the conventional narrative of American politics, conservatives are obsessed with social issues. They want to impose their values on everyone else. They want the government involved in your bedroom. Those mean right-wingers want to make “health-care choices” for women.
Now consider [the] decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider two cases stemming from Obamacare: Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. Democratic politicians and their fans on social media went ballistic almost instantly. That’s hardly unusual these days. But what’s revealing is that the talking points are all wrong.
Suddenly, the government is the hero for getting deeply involved in the reproductive choices of nearly every American, whether you want the government involved or not. The bad guy is now your boss who, according to an outraged Senator Patty Murray (D.,Wash.), would be free to keep you from everything from HIV treatment to vaccinating your children if Hobby Lobby has its way. Murray and the White House insist that every business should be compelled by law to protect its employees’ “right” to “contraception” that is “free.” [National Review Online,12/5/13, via Media Matters]
FACT: It Is Employers Like Hobby Lobby Who Are Improperly Injecting Themselves Between Women, Their Doctors, And Their Insurance Companies
American College Of Obstetricians And Gynecologists: Allowing A Patient’s Employer To Influence Health Care Decisions “Would Undermine The Very Nature Of The Patient-Provider Relationship.” In its amicus brief that it filed in support of the government in the Hobby Lobby case, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) argued that a win for the company could be “disastrous” for the patient-doctor relationship:
Employers’ refusal to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives would increase the cost of health care to women. Some women, particularly lower income women, would be unable to access the most medically appropriate method because of the additional expense. As a result, a private, medical decision that should be made by a woman in consultation with her health care provider would be unduly influenced by the employer. Employers should not be allowed to interfere in the provider-patient relationship in this way. Contraceptive access is critical to the health of women and women should not be denied coverage to which they are otherwise entitled by law based on the religious beliefs of their employer-corporation’s owners.
Moreover, allowing an employer a religious exemption to the ACA’s mandated coverage requirements would have consequences that extend far beyond contraception. Employers who object to any medical treatment, device, or procedure on personal grounds could similarly exclude such services from the coverage they provide — with potentially disastrous results. Employers could, for example, seek to exclude vaccinations that they deem offensive to their religious beliefs, forcing individuals to pay for objected-to vaccinations out-of-pocket or worse, forgo the medically-recommended vaccinations entirely. The public health implications of allowing a for-profit corporation to assert a religious exemption to the ACA’s mandated coverages are self-evident.
In short, health care decisions should be made by patients in consultation with their health care providers based on the best interests of the patient. … To allow the personal view of a remote party — the employer of a patient (or the patient’s spouse or guardian) — to play a role in a patient’s medical treatment would undermine the very nature of the patient-provider relationship. [Brief of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Support of the Government, 1/28/14, via Media Matters]
National Review Online: “Up Until 2012, No Federal Law Or Regulation Required Employers To Cover Contraception.” NRO editor Ramesh Ponnuru misleadingly argued that since there was no federal requirement that employers provide contraception coverage to employees prior to 2012, there was nothing “unprecedented” about Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the contraception mandate:
From reading the New York Times, you might think that religious conservatives had started a culture war over whether company health-insurance plans should cover contraception. What’s at issue in two cases the Supreme Court has just agreed to hear, the Times editorializes, is “the assertion by private businesses and their owners of an unprecedented right to impose the owners’ religious views on workers who do not share them.”
That way of looking at the issue will be persuasive if your memory does not extend back two years. Up until 2012, no federal law or regulation required employers to cover contraception (or drugs that may cause abortion, which one of the cases involves). If 2011 was marked by a widespread crisis of employers’ imposing their views on contraception on employees, nobody talked about it.
What’s actually new here is the Obama administration’s 2012 regulation requiring almost all employers to cover contraception, sterilization and drugs that may cause abortion. It issued that regulation under authority given in the Obamacare legislation.
The regulation runs afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a Clinton-era law. That act says that the government may impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religious belief only if it’s the least restrictive way to advance a compelling governmental interest. The act further says that no later law should be read to trump this protection unless it explicitly says it’s doing that. The Affordable Care Act has no such language.
Is a marginal increase in access to contraception a compelling interest, and is levying steep fines on employers who refuse to provide it for religious reasons the least burdensome way to further it? It seems doubtful. [National Review Online, 12/1/13, via Media Matters]
FACT: Contraception Mandates Have Existed Since The 1990s, And Were The Law In More Than Half Of The States Before The ACA Went Into Effect
National Conference of Legislatures: “At Least 26 States Have Laws Requiring Insurers That Cover Prescription Drugs Also Provide Coverage For Any FDA-Approved Contraceptive.” Although the ACA’s contraception mandate didn’t go into effect until 2012, the idea is hardly “new” and was a common state requirement, according to the National Conference of Legislature:
An estimated 10.7 million American women use oral contraceptives, the leading method of contraceptive in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Unintended pregnancies are associated with increased risk for poor birth outcomes.
Most women in the United States receive health insurance coverage through private plans, and a Kaiser Family Foundation 2010 survey of employers reports that 85 percent of large firms cover prescription contraceptives in their largest health plans. Federal law requires insurance coverage of contraceptives for federal employees and their dependents, allowing a few religious insurers exemption from the requirements.
At least 26 states have laws requiring insurers that cover prescription drugs also provide coverage for any Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptive. These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. An additional two states — Michigan and Montana — require insurance coverage of contraceptives as a result of administrative ruling or an Attorney General opinion. Two states — Texas and Virginia — require that employers be offered the option to include coverage of contraceptives within their health plans. Twenty-one states offer exemptions from contraceptive coverage, usually for religious reasons, for insurers or employers in their policies: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (administrative rule), Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia. … Several states require employers to notify employees of their refusal to provide contraceptive coverage. [National Conference of Legislatures, 2/2012]
RealClearPolicy’s Robert VerBruggen: “There Are All Sorts Of Reasons We Might Make Birth Control More Accessible … But ‘Gender Equality’ Is A Bit Of A Stretch.” According to VerBruggen, the government’s defense of the contraception mandate “recast[s] grossly irresponsible behavior as gender-bias victimhood” and is suspect because birth control pills are “available for $9 at Walmart”:
The government states … that “gender equality” is one reason it is requiring employers to provide insurance that includes contraception with no copay. The basic idea is straightforward: Only women take birth-control pills; therefore women are footing the bill for extra expenses simply because they’re women, and the government should step in. Countless pundits have similarly advanced the case that it’s “unfair” for women to have to pay for birth control.
It’s certainly true that only women take birth-control pills — and that, as the government points out, overall health-care expenses are considerably higher for women. But it’s less obvious why the expenses associated with birth control should be considered in the context of health care. Birth control is “health care” in the sense of coming from a doctor, but it’s not health care in the sense of being designed to detect, prevent, or address some sort of ailment. Pregnancy is not a disease, and sex is something people may choose to engage in or not; birth-control pills are merely a product couples use so that they can have sex without becoming pregnant.
Arguably, for the purposes of “gender equality,” the expenses of birth control are best considered in the context of those couples’ relationships. Are men really free-riding on the birth-control expenditures of women?
Men often pay for meals and drinks; women usually spend more time and money preparing to go out. Since the pill doesn’t address STDs, there’s also the question of who pays for condoms. Again, why are we singling out birth-control pills, available for $9 at Walmart, as the expense to gender-equalize?
The government makes more roundabout arguments, too: For example, without an insurance plan that fully covers birth control, some women might choose to go without it but keep having sex, placing themselves “at a competitive disadvantage in the workforce due to their inability to decide for themselves if and when to bear children.” It’s a clever argument, if you don’t mind recasting grossly irresponsible behavior as gender-bias victimhood.
There are all sorts of reasons we might make birth control more accessible, and all sorts of debates we can have about forcing employers to include it in health plans. But “gender equality” is a bit of a stretch. [RealClearPolicy, 12/4/13]
FACT: All Preventive Services Are Covered By The Affordable Care Act, Including Health Benefits That Are Only Applicable To Specific Demographics
National Women’s Law Center: “Employers That Exclude Women’s Preventive Health Services From Their Health Insurance Plans While Covering Men’s Preventive Services Discriminate Against Women.” The National Women’s Law Center explained that as part of the preventive health services recommended by the Institute of Medicine, contraceptive coverage without cost sharing will make great strides for gender equality because “women disproportionately [bear] the costs of reproductive health care, and these high costs negatively affected women’s health and well-being”:
[B]y addressing gender gaps in health insurance and remedying the sex disparities inherent in failing to provide health insurance coverage for contraception and related services, the contraception regulations advance the compelling governmental interest in ending gender discrimination and promoting gender equality. Indeed, in passing the ACA, Congress recognized that excluding coverage of women’s preventive health services, including contraception, constituted discrimination against women. Providing contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing corrects gender gaps in the provision of health care by ensuring that women, like men, can meet their basic preventive health care needs. Before the ACA went into effect, women disproportionately bore the costs of reproductive health care, and these high costs negatively affected women’s health and well-being, as women often lacked access to or forewent necessary health care to keep costs down.
The contraception regulations address this disparity and advance equal opportunity in other aspects of women’s lives, thus improving women’s social and economic outcomes more generally.
Employers that exclude women’s preventive health services from their health insurance plans while covering men’s preventive services discriminate against women. Such exclusion means that women are denied the comprehensive preventive health coverage provided to men. Moreover, when effective contraception is not used, and unintended pregnancy results, it is women who incur the attendant physical burdens and medical risks of pregnancy, women who disproportionately bear the health care costs of pregnancy and childbirth, and women who often face barriers to employment and educational opportunities as a result of pregnancy. [Brief for the National Women’s Law Center in Support of the Government, 1/28/14, via Media Matters]
Two radio hosts in Rochester, NY lost their jobs following a grossly transphobic segment mocking the transgender community. But the vicious comments that got them fired are nearly identical to the kind of transphobic hate speech Fox News regularly peddles to its national audience with impunity.
On May 22, Rochester radio station 98.9 The Buzz announced that it had fired Kimberly and Beck - the hosts of the station’s morning talk radio show “The Breakfast Buzz’ - following outrage over a segment criticizing Rochester’s plan to cover transgender healthcare for employees and their families. According to a statement from Entercom Rochester:
This morning Entercom fired Kimberly and Beck effective immediately. Their hateful comments against the transgender community do not represent our station or our company. We deeply apologize to the transgender community, the community of Rochester, and anyone else who was offended by their hateful comments. We are proud of our past work on behalf of the local LGBT community and we remain committed to that partnership.
The May 21 segment in question was an “atrocious" train wreck of transphobic slurs, misinformation, and hate speech. Kimberly and Beck called transgender people "nut jobs," trivialized the need for transgender health care, and played Aerosmith’s Dude Looks Like A Lady throughout the segment. They accused a transgender high school athlete of having an unfair advantage over her opponents and joked about her using her genitals to play baseball. And when a caller expressed disappointment in the hosts’ transphobic commentary, another host responded “thank you, sir,” in an attempt to mock the caller’s gender:
From the 05.21.2014 edition of WBZA’s The Breakfast Buzz with Kimberly and Beck:
98.9 The Buzz was right to act quickly to shut down Kimberly and Beck’s hateful transphobic commentary.
But Kimberly and Beck’s comments aren’t all that extreme when compared to the way conservative media outlets talk about the transgender community. In reality, the segment might have been entirely unremarkable had it been aired on Fox News.
Playing Dude Looks Like A Lady to mock transgender people? Fox has done it.
Intentionally misgendering transgender people against their wishes? Common practice at Fox.
Trivializing transgender healthcare as cosmetic or unnecessary? Megyn Kelly is all over it.
Kimberly and Beck’s comments are inexcusable, but they also reached a relatively small audience of listeners. Now that the embattled hosts are looking for work, they might want to consider applying at Fox News. They’ll be able to reach a much broader audience without having to worry about any pesky rules against using hate speech.
When Fox News shrugged off poor military medical care.
Of course, this was under another president…
In 2007, key talkers such as Sean Hannity and Charles Krauthammer were all amazingly silent on Fox, for weeks at a time, about the wounded soldiers scandal. During that time, Hannity failed on camera to condemn the deplorable Army hospital environment, or hold the administration accountable. The same lack of interest was shared by Krauthammer: Not once did he discuss Walter Reed on the air during his more than one dozen primetime Fox News appearances in the months of February and March in 2007.
Fox’s discrepancies in coverage when it comes to mistreatment in military medical facilities reveal the opportunism that is at the core of how they approach stories about Americans who are suffering.
What’s “classic” is how Fox and friends determine their level of outrage about failed military care based on who occupies the White House.
The Obama outrage engines are revving up at Fox News and across the conservative media landscape as conservatives shift, temporarily at least, from Obamacare and Benghazi and set their sights on the unfolding scandal involving backlog waiting lists at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. The serious allegations that dozens of veterans died while awaiting treatment from Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, and that VA managers there created a secret waiting list to hide how long men and women had to wait to see a doctor, sparked a resignation and Congressional hearings.
The Fox condemnations have been especially loud, and sweeping. And yes, they’ve been mostly directed at the president.
"If only Barack Obama’s team treated our veterans as well as they treat the mega-donors to the Democrat [sic] party," lamented Laura Ingraham on Fox & Friends. For days, a parade of Fox talkers have condemned Obama for the story. One even accused the administration of “criminally negligent homicide.”
The heated right-wing response stands in stark contrast to the muted coverage Fox News provided for the last major controversy involving failed medical care for returning soldiers. In February 2007, the Washington Post, following up on original reporting done by Salon, exposed shockingly poor conditions inside the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Those revelations also sparked resignations and Congressional hearings.
But back then, of course, George W. Bush was president and back then Fox News wasn’t as interested in the story. (It took Bill O’Reilly six weeks following the publication of the first Post expose to conclude that the Bush administration had badly bungled veterans care at Walter Reed.) And Fox worried journalists were paying too much attention to the scandal.
Numbers highlight the striking disparity in coverage.
Over a six-week period during early 2007, as the Walter Reed story continued to generate headlines, Fox aired a total of 28 reports and discussions on the topic, according to a search of programs archived by Nexis. By contrast, in just the last seven days Fox has aired more than 30 segments on the VA story. (According to TVEyes.com, “VA” was mentioned more than 250 times on Fox between May 14-20; 100 more mentions than on CNN and MSNBC.)
In 2007, key talkers such as Sean Hannity and Charles Krauthammer were all amazingly silent on Fox, for weeks at a time, about the wounded veterans scandal. During that time, Hannity failed on camera to condemn the deplorable Army hospital environment, or hold the administration accountable. The same lack of interest was shared by Krauthammer: Not once did he discuss Walter Reed on the air during his more than one dozen primetime Fox News appearances in the months of February and March in 2007.
"At some point, you’ve gotta ask, ‘Where has he been, and where is the competence, the elementary competence, he promised when he ran in 2008?’"
Betraying our Veterans: A new whistleblower blames VA department for vet suicides next #Hannity— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 20, 2014
Meanwhile, in 2007 Think Progress noted that on March 2, as the veterans scandal escalated, and one day after the secretary of the Army resigned, the story was of little interest at Fox. That day, Fox mentioned “Anna Nicole Smith,” who had generated tabloid headlines when she died three weeks earlier, 121 times. But “Walter Reed” was referenced just ten times on March 2, 2007. By contrast, MSNBC and CNN mentioned the veterans hospital 84 and 53 times on that day, respectively.
While Fox shied away from the Walter Reed story seven years, it simultaneously wondered if the rest of the news media were paying too much attention to the scandal. During a March 10, 2007 discussion on Fox News Watch, host E.D. Hill noted, “The media first brought the scandal to light. But now, are they also in danger of overdoing it?” She later pressed a guest: “Is all of this just slightly overdone?”
Note that the disturbing Walter Reed story has been unraveling for years. Steve Robinson, director of Veterans Affairs at Veterans for America, had told Salon, “What we are talking about is a systemic problem where soldiers are left unattended in the barracks. They are sharing medications. They are drinking like alcoholics,” and waiting for treatment.
Indeed, Salon’s Mark Benjamin spent years prior to 2007 diligently detailing the troubling and widespread shortcomings for Americans veterans who returned to Walter Reed from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fox’s look-away coverage from Walter Reed mirrored how the conservative press ignored the growing veterans scandal for years. “If the right-wing media had broadcast the story, hidden in plain sight,” Steve Young wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the right’s water-carriers could have helped avert years of misery for many of our veterans.”
More from Young, a U.S. veteran, in March 2007:
But you heard nary a peep of indignation from O’Reilly against the Republican Congress, which, for the last six years, not only stood by and allowed Walter Reed to happen but actually conspired in the abomination.
The one constant in the VA and Walter Reed coverage from Fox has been that in both instances, pundits erroneously suggested the deep flaws in veterans care represented the failings of “government-run" health care. That knee-jerk partisan response was widespread within the conservative media in 2007.
From Rush Limbaugh:
If you want government-run health care, if you want to see what it’s going to be like, take a look at the mess that supposedly exists at Walter Reed and some of these other hospitals. It’s classic.
What’s “classic” is how Fox and friends determine their level of outrage about failed veteran care based on who occupies the White House.
Fox News is witnessing the nasty byproducts of its endless campaign to depict extreme, virulent homophobia as a normal part of mainstream Christianity.
It’s long been standard practice at Fox News to conflate anti-gay bigotry with Christianity. Last December, for instance, the network rushed to defend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after he compared homosexuality with bestiality and equated gay people with “drunks” and “terrorists,” with Megyn Kelly referring to Robertson as “[t]his Christian guy,” Sean Hannity describing his comments as “old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values,” and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes defending Robertson as upholding “the teachings of the Bible.”
Meanwhile, Fox has repeatedly touted business owners who refuse service to gay couples, taking up their mantle in regular “Fight for Faith” segments. The network has championed some of the country’s most extreme anti-gay hate groups as mainstream Christian organizations. When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to attend he city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade over its ban on LGBT groups, Fox News attacked him as a “religious bigot.” And the network regularly describes even basic legal protections for LGBT people as anti-Christian.
Now, a new anti-gay controversy has once again provided fodder for Fox to depict extreme anti-gay bigotry as grounded in mainstream Christianity. Earlier this month, HGTV cancelled a forthcoming reality show slated to be hosted by brothers Jason and David Benham. The cancellation came after Right Wing Watch unearthed the brothers’ history of extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic activism, including condemning homosexuality as “demonic" and "destructive.”
Anchor Megyn Kelly responded to HGTV’s move by asserting on the May 8 edition of The Kelly File that while “gay rights are more and more protected in this country,” the same didn’t hold for “Christian beliefs and Christian rights.”
During the May 16 edition of Kelly’s show, guest host Martha MacCallum invited right-wing radio commentator Dana Loesch and Democratic strategist Jessica Ehrlich to discuss the controversy engulfing the Benham brothers. Perfectly encapsulating the right’s bogus homophobia-as-Christianity narrative, Loesch dubbed Ehrlich an “anti-Christian bigot” for deigning to criticize the brothers’ extreme anti-gay views:
LOESCH: I just don’t understand the anti-Christian bigotry. I mean, I think the world is big enough for us all, don’t you think?
EHRLICH: It is absolutely — what you just said encapsulates my argument completely.
LOESCH: How so?
EHRLICH: There is no anti-Christian bigotry here. They have cloaked their political views in a religious -
EHRLICH: These are not Christian views… Those are not the views of all Christians, and for you to say that is outrageous.
LOESCH: So, how does that make them anti-Christian, using your logic, Jessica, using your logic, if they are anti homosexual because they believe in a biblically based -
EHRLICH: Because not all Christians believe -
LOESCH: You’ll learn more if you keep your mouth shut. Now, Jessica, how is that that they are anti-homosexual but you are not anti-Christian? [emphasis added]
In her rush to accuse Ehrlich of being an anti-Christian bigot, Loesch didn’t bother dwelling on the vehement anti-gay activism of the Benham brothers. David Benham asserted in 2012 that “homosexuality and its agenda” were “attacking the nation,” has compared the fight against LGBT equality to the struggle against Nazi Germany, and has highlighted Leviticus’ prescription of the death penalty for gay sex. As Ehrlich noted, those aren’t the views of all Christians. A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute in February found majority support for marriage equality among white mainline Protestants (62 percent), white Catholics (58 percent), and Latino Catholics (56 percent). And even though substantial majorities of evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage, they’re hardy unanimous, with 59 percent of black Protestants and 69 percent of white evangelicals expressing their opposition.
Loesch’s unhinged defense of the Benham brothers is an unsettling illustration of the danger that comes with Fox News’s campaign to depict homophobia as nothing more than mainstream Christianity. It ends up excusing even the most extreme forms of anti-gay bigotry while painting a misleading picture of what most American Christians actually believe.
h/t: Luke Brinker at MMFA