National Review Editor Equates Akin's "Legitimate Rape" Stance With Grimes' Defense Of Secret Ballots
National Review editor Rich Lowry equated Kentucky senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes’ refusal to disclose which presidential candidate she voted for in 2012 with former Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s (MO) stunning claim that it is “really rare” for a woman to become pregnant as a result of “a legitimate rape.” Lowry suggested the two positions were politically equivalent “gaffes,” whitewashing the fact that Akin’s statement was not only absurdly disconnected from scientific reality — it also happened to reflect actual policy priorities of the Republican Party.
During an October 10 interview with the editorial board of The Louisville Courier-Journal, Grimes said she “respect[ed] the sanctity of the ballot box” when asked if she voted for President Obama in past elections. During an October 13 candidate debate, Grimes reiterated her stance on voter privacy:
GRIMES: This is a matter of principle. Our constitution grants, here in Kentucky, the constitutional right to privacy at the ballot box, for a secret ballot. You have that right, Senator McConnell has that right, every Kentuckian has that right.
GRIMES: I am not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or other side or for members of the media.
In an October 15 column published by Politico Magazine, Lowry exclaimed that “Alison Lundergan Grimes is the Todd Akin of 2014,” and argued that Grimes’ stated position defending the secret ballot was “a defining political gaffe” for this election. He likened her comments to then-Rep. Todd Akin’s infamous statements about rape and pregnancy, in which Akin stated that pregnancies resulting from rape are rare because, “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Lowry argued that the two candidates represented similar levels of political ineptitude, writing that each was “telegenic, mockable and universally condemned.”
Grimes’ decision to stand on principle with regard to voter privacy has been labeled a “gaffe” by some, but, as MSNBC’s Steve Benen pointed out, it is “an issue the media has deemed extremely important, but which actually affects no one.”
By comparison, Akin’s alarming comments on rape and pregnancy were reflected to varying degrees in actual policy decisions favored by Republican elected officials and candidates. Akin would later attempt to clarify his remarks amid a “firestorm” of controversy, but maintained his opposition to legal abortion access for women — a constitutional right codified by the Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In 2012, many prominent Republican candidates and conservative media figures supported banning safe and legal abortion, making the issue a central part of campaign rhetoric.
In October 2012, Indiana Republican senate candidate Richard Mourdock voiced his opposition to abortion"even when life begins in that terrible situation of rape," stating that "it is something that God intended to happen." Around the same time, Republican Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois supported a ban on all abortion, including cases that would threaten the life of the mother. Walsh falsley claimed that “modern technology and science” had solved the problem of potentially life-threatening pregnancies. During a 2007 Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney said “we don’t want to have abortion in this country at all, period.” He went on to state that it would be “terrific” if Congress passed a bill outlawing abortion, which he would be “delighted” to sign. Romney dodged abortion questions throughout his 2012 campaign, but promised to eliminate federal funding for women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood and vowed to be “a pro-life president.”
Outlawing access to abortion remains a lightning rod for conservative media, with some right-wing outlets going so far as to tie debates about legal abortion to the crimes of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. Right-wing media figures like Karl Rove have pushed the myth that some forms of contraception are actually forms of abortion, while others such as Bill O’Reilly advanced extremist views on fetal “personhood” that would criminalize most abortions.
There is no appropriate comparison between Akin’s extreme rhetoric and false scientific claims, and Grimes’ personal defense of privacy at the ballot box.
If anything, the Todd Akin of 2014 is Joni Ernst, NOT ALG.
h/t: Craig Harrington at MMFA
Since Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) revealed in her new memoir that she once made the difficult decision to end a pregnancy she and her husband very much wanted, some conservatives have cast doubt on the truth of Davis’ story and her motivations in telling it.
The right-leaning National Review called Davis’ story “convenient” and “unverifiable” in an article on Tuesday, saying the Davis campaign did not “respond to questions about whether Davis’ highly unusual abortions were matched by any medical evidence, doctor statements, or public verification from her ex-husband or two daughters.” Davis wrote in her memoir that she had also terminated a different pregnancy because it was ectopic, which can be life-threatening for the mother.
Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak accused the campaign of using Davis’ story to promote abortion, a move he called "sickening" and "subhuman," and he noted that the media attention would “impact book sales and also pay dividends for the campaign.” He later apologized for using the word “subhuman” and deleted the original tweet.
But Davis’ decision to end the pregnancy apparently was a painful memory for her family before she announced her campaign for governor. When Davis’ father died in September 2013, his obituary named “Tate Elise” — Davis’ deceased daughter — as one of his relatives.
Davis explains in her memoir that she made the difficult decision to have an abortion after a doctor told her the fetus had developed a severe brain abnormality that was causing her to suffer in the womb. She wrote that she and her husband named and baptized and mourned Tate Elise after the C-section procedure.
"On her feet were crocheted booties, and next to her was a small crocheted pink bunny," Davis wrote. "Jeff and I spent the better part of the day holding her, crying for her and for us."
Davis’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Votes, said she is grateful to Davis for “shining a light on a subject that is too often hidden in the shadows of shame and stigma.”
What a fucking asshat!
Right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham baselessly suggested that Muslims aren’t condemning the violent tactics employed by the extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), though in reality many prominent Muslim voices have strongly denounced the group.
Recent news reports have documented shocking acts of terror that have made ISIS the “most feared organization in the Middle East.” The group has warned Christians that they must either “convert to Islam or die,” and according to Secretary of State John Kerry, its “grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide.”
During an August 11 conversation about ISIS’ threats against Iraqi Christians with the National Review's Nina Shea, Laura Ingraham claimed that few, if any, Muslims have spoken out against the group:
INGRAHAM: And it would be nice if more in the Muslim world coming out and condemning what the Islamic State is doing. You’re not hearing enough of those voices, if any. I mean, where are those people?
But in reality, many Islamic leaders have strongly denounced ISIS, and thousands more Muslims have gathered to promote messages of peace.
Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which represents 1.4 billion Muslims in 57 countries around the world, condemned ISIS’ threats against Christians in Iraq, saying the “forced deportation under the threat of execution” is a “crime that cannot be tolerated.” In an interview with Reuters, Turkey’s highest ranking cleric, Mehmet Gormez, similarly decried ISIS’ threats against Christians and argued that the statements were damaging to the Muslim community: “Islamic scholars need to focus on this (because) an inability to peacefully sustain other faiths and cultures heralds the collapse of a civilization.”
In a July 7 statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called ISIS’ actions “un-Islamic and morally repugnant.” CAIR noted that the group’s “human rights abuses on the ground are well-documented” and called on other Muslim community leaders to speak out against the violence. The Muslim Council of Great Britain’s Shuja Shafi also said: “Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion. It is prohibited for people to present themselves for destruction.”
Right-wing media have launched a campaign of mockery, victim-blaming, and denial to dismiss the sexual assault epidemic, particularly on college campuses, and the Obama administration’s efforts to curtail the growing problem.
While Approximately One In Five Women Experiences Sexual Assault In College
One In Five Women Is Sexually Assaulted While In College. On April 28, the White House released a 20-page report detailing the Obama administration’s strategy to combat sexual assault on college campuses, noting that currently one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college:
One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. Most often, it happens her freshman or sophomore year. In the great majority of cases, it’s by someone she knows - and also most often, she does not report what happened. And though fewer, men, too, are victimized.
The Administration is committed to putting an end to this violence. That’s why the President established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault on January 22, 2014, with a mandate to strengthen federal enforcement efforts and provide schools with additional tools to combat sexual assault on their campuses.[WhiteHouse.gov, FACT SHEET: Not Alone - Protecting Students from Sexual Assault, 4/29/14]
Congress Exploring Proposals To Combat Sex Assault At Colleges. The Washington Post reported that Congress is working in conjunction with the Obama administration to explore proposals to combat sexual assault on campus:
Congress is exploring proposals to combat sex assault at colleges, months after taking action to overhaul how the military responds to sexual violence.
"This is an issue that has for far too long been swept under the rug," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Thursday at a hearing on campus sex assault.
Ideas include requiring colleges to survey students about sex assaults and other safety issues, giving the government more options to penalize schools that mishandle assault reports and simplifying the jumble of laws, regulations and federal guidance that colleges must follow. [Washington Post, 6/26/14]
Right-Wing Media Mock Sexual Assault …
Glenn Beck’s The Blaze Mocked Prevalence Of Sexual Assault With Skit Performances Labeled “Rape.”The May 27 edition of Beck’s program The BlazeTV acted out sexual propositions and labeled each skit “RAPE!” in an attempt to mock the prevalence of reported sexual assault, purporting that the epidemic is “completely untrue.” [The Blaze, The Glenn Beck Program, 5/27/14]
Fox’s Jesse Watters: Statutory Rape Of 16-Year Old Boy Isn’t As Bad If Female Perpetrator Is Attractive. During an Outnumbered discussion of a Florida woman convicted of having sex with a 16-year-old boy, Fox News producer Jesse Watters mocked the assault saying, “If you’re a 16-year-old kid and you have sex with your best friend’s mom, you usually get high fives.” Watters further dismissed the gravity of the crime by implying statutory rape isn’t as bad if the female perpetrator is attractive. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/11/14]
Fox’s Tucker Carlson: Men Understand That Getting Sexually Harassed By A Female Teacher Is ”The Greatest Thing That Ever Happened.” On the May 5 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, co-host Tucker Carlson mocked a student who was sexually harassed by his female teacher, asserting that men understand that such sexual harassment is the “greatest thing ever.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 5/5/14]
Carlson Responding To A Teacher Sexually Assaulting A Male Student: “Lighten Up, America, Come On.” During an earlier discussion of a teacher accused of sexually assaulting her male student, Fox’s Tucker Carlson insisted “it is not a crime,” and “there is no victim here.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 4/28/14]
Blame Victims For The Violence …
Washington Post's George Will: Sexual Assault Victim Is A “Coveted Status.” In a June 7 syndicated column, Washington Post's George Will dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault on campuses in the U.S., implying individuals were pretending to be victims because colleges have made victimhood a “coveted status.” [Washington Post, 6/7/14, via Media Matters]
The Weekly Standard Blamed Feminism For Sexual Assault. In a June 30 article, The Weekly Standard downplayed the seriousness of sexual assault by attributing the blame to women and feminism. Author and Hoover Institute fellow Harvey Mansfield claimed that feminism is to blame for sexual assault, writing that the movement caused sexual assault victims to abandon ”feminine modesty” which provided women “protection while they considered whether they wanted to consent.” Mansfield concluded that sexual assault is merely the result of feminism causing women to “drink themselves into drunken consent—in order to overcome their natural modesty.” [The Weekly Standard, 6/30/14]
Fox’s Tantaros Suggested Feminism Encouraged Statutory Rape Of Student. On the January 22 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros blamed feminism for a statutory rape crime, claiming “There’s something about feminism that lets them know that ‘I can do everything a man does, I can even go after that young boy.’” [Fox News, The Five, 1/22/14]
Tucker Carlson: Reporting Statutory Rape Is “Whiny.” On the June 5 edition of Fox News’Outnumbered,Tucker Carlson criticized a student for reporting a statutory rape as “whiny,” diminishing the victim’s report, saying, “He went and tattled to the police.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/5/14]
NRO: Rape Is ‘Instinctive’ Among Some Young Men, So Feminists Are To Blame For Sexual Assault Increase. National Review Online's Mona Charen theorized that feminists are to blame for creating a collegiate climate of “sexual insensitivity and sometimes even brutality” where sexual assaults occur:
The young women who find themselves in a rough world of sexual insensitivity and sometimes even brutality are looking in all the wrong places to lay blame. They should look left; to the cultural left, that is, including the feminists.
The modern campus is a little hothouse of leftist ideas about human nature and the ideal human society. The universities are devout propagators of false nostrums about sex differences and sexuality. The world that the Left (very much including the feminist Left) has created is one that could have been designed by a poorly civilized teenaged boy. Far from teaching that women are more sensitive and vulnerable than men, the Left encourages a sexual free-for-all.
The current climate has encouraged the worst instincts among some young men and doubtless confused many others. Some may find themselves accused of sexual assault when they got mixed signals. Others are predators who pick off easy prey in a world without guardrails. Women have been brainwashed into thinking that this sexual sewer is empowering. [National Review Online, 5/9/14]
NRO: Sexual Assaults Usually Involve ”A Large Degree Of Voluntary Behavior” From Women. In a May 8 article, National Review Online's Heather Mac Donald accused the White House of “parroting over 20 years worth of feminist propagandizing” by releasing a sexual assault report echoing the fact that one and four women face sexual assault, and added that campus-rape could be “stopped overnight” if women stopped getting drunk:
But the main reason “survivors” don’t demand to bring their cases to criminal court is that they know that what they have experienced is something far more complex and compromised than criminal sexual assault, almost invariably involving mixed signals, ambiguity, and a large degree of voluntary behavior on their part.
Girls often drink themselves blotto both before and during parties precisely to lower their sexual inhibitions.
The alleged campus-rape epidemic could be stopped overnight if women’s advocates sent a simple message to girls: Don’t get drunk and get into bed with a guy whom you barely know. Keep your clothes on and go home to your own bed at night. And most controversially: Demand that any boy court you long enough to reveal his character and his respect for yours before you even think about having sex with him. [National Review Online, 5/8/14]
NRO: Efforts To Investigate Sexual Assault On Campuses “Poison The Atmosphere On Campus And Diminish American Life In General.” National Review Online's Thomas Sowell attacked the administration's investigations as “threatening colleges that don't handle rape issues the politically correct way — that is, by presuming the accused to be guilty.” Sowell characterized policies aimed at curbing sexual assault as institutionalized “lynch-mob mentality”:
Why are rapists not reported to the police and prosecuted in a court of law?
Apparently this is because of some college women who say that they were raped and are dissatisfied with a legal system that does not automatically take their word for it against the word of someone who has been accused and denies the charge.
There seem to be a dangerously large number of people who think that the law exists to give them whatever they want — even when that means denying other people the same rights that they claim for themselves.
Nowhere is this self-centered attitude more common than on college campuses. And nowhere are such attitudes more encouraged than by the Obama administration’s Justice Department, which is threatening colleges that don’t handle rape issues the politically correct way — that is, by presuming the accused to be guilty and not letting constitutional safeguards get in the way.
But those who are whipping up the lynch-mob mentality have shown far less interest in stopping rape than in politicizing it. Many of the politically correct crusaders are the same people who have pushed for unisex living arrangements on campus, including unisex bathrooms, and who have put condom machines in dormitories and turned freshman orientation programs into a venue for sexual “liberation” propaganda. [National Review Online,5/13/14]
WSJ Editor: Intoxicated Sexual Assault Victims Are Just As Guilty As Their Attackers.In a February 10 column, Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto claimed that cases of “‘sexual assault’ on campus” that involve alcohol are really victimless crimes in which both parties are equally guilty. [Wall Street Journal,2/10/14]
And Deny Reality Of Sexual Assault Prevalence
Daily Caller Downplayed Government Sexual Assault Statistic As “Bizarre And Wholly False.” The Daily Caller attacked the Center for Disease Control’s findings that one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, arguing that sexual assaults are often falsely reported. [Daily Caller, 4/30/14]
Washington Examiner: One In Five Women Being Sexually Assaulted In College Is A “Ridiculous Statistic.” In an April 29 post, the Washington Examiner claimed that the CDC’s one in five statistic was “ridiculous” and claimed that it perpetuated “a culture of presuming that a man is guilty.” [The Washington Examiner, 4/29/14]
New York Post Dismissed Campus Sexual Assault Epidemic As “Regrettable Sex.” In a May 6 op-ed,New York Post columnist Naomi Schaeffer Riley denied the existence of a sexual assault epidemic, dismissing campus sexual assault as “sexual encounters fueled by bad judgment and free-flowing alcohol.” Schaeffer went on to blame the assault victims for “bad judgment,” describing assaults as “regrettable sex.” [New York Post,5/6/14]
NRO: Women Are Just “Being Taught To Believe They Were Raped.” In a May 19 piece, National Review Online contributor A.J. Delgado claimed that women are being “brainwash[ed] into believing they were raped,” adding that “for every legitimate, actual rape claim there may be another that was not: a girl who cried rape.” [National Review Online, 5/19/14]
A coalition of Islamophobes, birthers, and conspiracy theorists led by a prominent supporter of impeaching President Obama will assemble at the Heritage Foundation this afternoon to discuss the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
The event, titled “Benghazi: The Difference It Makes Is Accountability!” will be co-hosted by the Benghazi Accountability Coalition. In a post at National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy, a conservative commentator and former federal prosecutor, identifies himself as the chairman of that new “volunteer organization.”
McCarthy is the author of a new book that seeks to build ”the political case” for President Obama’s impeachment. The book includes a draft Articles of Impeachment detailing “The Benghazi Fraud.” According to McCarthy, the talking points used by former Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to discuss the terrorist attacks on Sunday morning political talk shows constituted a deliberate effort “to defraud the American people in connection with matters of great public importance, in violation of [President Obama’s] duty to execute the laws faithfully and his fiduciary duty to be truthful in his statements to the American people.”
At National Review Online, McCarthy promises that today’s forum will “feature some speakers with tremendous insights into the relevant issues about the Benghazi Massacre.” James Jay Carafano, Heritage’s vice present of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, will participate, lending the organization’s imprimatur to the proceedings. Here are some of those notables who will appear alongside him:
- Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, who is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the anti-Muslim movement’s most paranoid propagandist.” Gaffney was banned from participating at the Conservative Political Action Conference after accusing prominent conservative activist Grover Norquist and former Bush aide Suhail Khan of being Muslim Brotherhood operatives. In October 2008 he claimed that Obama’s eligibility to be president was “unresolved,” citing “evidence Mr. Obama was born in Kenya rather than, as he claims, Hawaii.”
- Lt. General Thomas G. McInerney, USAF (Ret.), a Fox News military analyst who submitted court documents challenging Obama’s eligibility to be president based on the conspiracy theory that he was not born in the United States.
- Lt. General W.G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.), who was criticized by President Bush and the Defense Department for portraying the fight against Islamic extremists as a religious war between a “Christian nation” and the “idol” of Islam. He has also termed Islam “evil” and a “totalitarian way of life.”
- Clare Lopez, who is a prominent member of Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and the similarly anti-Muslim Clarion Project. Lopez has claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood has “infiltrated and suborned the U.S. government to actively assist… the mission of its grand jihad.” Earlier this month, Fox News contributor Allen West reported that Lopez had emailed him a “very poignant analysis” of Bob Bergdahl’s use of Arabic during a White House event with President Obama to announce the return of his son, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl: according to Lopez, “by uttering these words on the grounds of the WH, Bergdahl (the father) sanctified the WH and claimed it for Islam.”
- Brigitte Gabriel, the founder and CEO of the anti-Islam group ACT! for America, was described by The New York Times as “one of the most visible personalities on a circuit of self-appointed terrorism detectors who warn that Muslims pose an enormous danger within United States borders” who “presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion.”
- Chris Plante, who is a right-wing talk radio host on Washington, DC’s WMAL. Last year he generated the false accusation that President Obama omitted the words “under God” from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address and suggested that the president would not have cut the words “under Allah” if they had appeared in the speech.
- Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, married Republican activist law partners who have spent decades pushing smears of Democrats in the press. They played a key role in pushing debunked claims that the Obama administration was threatening Benghazi “whistleblowers.”
h/t: Matt Gertz at MMFA
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]
Delgado essentially blames “liberals” for loosening the definition of sexual assault to include “any sexual activity in which the woman is not sober.”
"Admittedly, I am no scientist, but I am fairly certain that a statistically significant amount of sex — including very enjoyable sex — happens under the influence of alcohol. But by the liberal definition of my generation, I have been raped. Multiple times," she wrote.
She goes on to explain that such a definition has blurred the line between “sexual assault” and “rape.”
“Keep in mind: Men can now be shamed with the ‘sexual assault’ offender label for minor acts. If a friend jokingly comes up behind a girl and slaps her butt, that is, by today’s definitions, a sexual assault,” Delgado notes.
There are two possible explanations for the sudden focus on sexual assault on college campuses, according to Delgado.
"Are college administrators, now largely in charge of presiding over rape allegations, quick to pronounce a situation as a rape, erring on the side of caution and of extreme feminism?" she asked.
The second explanation would be to blame it on the victims.
"Are women themselves being taught to believe they were raped (the aforementioned ‘only sober consent is true consent!’ notion)? Yes. And that, ironically enough, makes these women victims of liberal culture, too," Delgado wrote.
She backs up her claims with an anecdote from her time in school. Delgado describes a situation in which a friend had sex with a man she had been chasing for a while. And when he didn’t call her back, she decided to accuse him of rape since she was drunk and unsure of what happened. Delgado wrote that “this was a case not of rape but of ‘regrettable sex.’”
"After all, for every legitimate, actual rape claim there may be another that was not: a girl who cried rape," she concludes after the story.
Delgado argued that the “impact on the lives of the accused” needs to be considered, since a mere accusation or arrest can ruin someone’s life.
"If rape is a hideous, heinous crime — and it is — is it not similarly horrific to brand someone guilty of such without slow and somber consideration of circumstances and evidence?" she asked. "Is it not also horrible when we brainwash women into believing they were raped?"
The tweet was sent from the official account for Schultz’s MSNBC program and it included an observation that, by itself, appeared to minimize the plight of the millions of Jewish interned and killed during the Holocaust.
"Gay people were really the ones being persecuted in Hitler’s Germany," read the tweet, which included a screengrab from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website.
It was promptly deleted, but conservative journalists picked it up.
"The MSNBC host Godwined himself before anyone else even said a word with a tweet where he informed the world of who was the ‘real’ target of Hitler’s Final Solution,” wrote Breitbart’s Warner Todd Huston.
"Waiting for Ed Schultz to explain that Irish indentured servants were the real victims of slavery," snarked National Review’s Jonah Goldberg.
Matt Drudge blared the news to his legions of dedicated followers.
Was Schultz really suggesting that homosexuals, and not Jews, were the major targets of the Third Reich?
A subsequent tweet from the “Ed Show” account offered a clue of what Schultz (or his team) was trying to say. It provided a preview of an upcoming segment on the program about Rep. Louie Gohmert’s (R-TX) comparison of LGBT advocates to Nazis.
In a floor speech last week, Gohmert complained that opponents of same-sex marriage have been labeled “haters.” He said Nazis also gave those they persecuted similar labels.
When Schultz addressed Gohmert’s comments on-air, he used identical language to the deleted tweet and cited figures from the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"Louie is a little short on his Nazi history. Gay people were really the ones being persecuted in Hitler’s Germany, according to the United States Holocaust Museum," Schultz said. "Between 5,000 and 15,000 gay men were interned in concentration camps in Nazi Germany. These prisoners were marked by pink triangle badges. According to many survivor accounts, homosexuals were among the most abused groups in the camps."
"If Louie Gohmert thinks he’s being persecuted the same way the Jews were being persecuted, he can keep on pretending," Schultz continued.
H/T: Tom Kludt at TPM
Fox News contributor Scott Brown was forced to end his financial relationship with Newsmax after he sent a sponsored email to his list touting dubious Alzheimer’s disease cures from huckster Dr. Russell Blaylock. Brown is one of several conservative media outlets and personalities — including his Fox News colleague Mike Huckabee and conservative magazine National Review — that have helped sell out their followers to Blaylock in recent years.
In recent years, several prominent conservative outlets and personalities have sent emails to their followers touting Blaylock and his dubious medicine:
National Review. The conservative magazine sent an April 20, 2013, email from Newsmax / Blaylock with the subject line: “These 7 Things Activate Alzheimer’s in Your Brain.” (Last week, National Review told Think Progress that it was investigating emails it had sent out touting a separate shady sponsor. According to the magazine’s publisher, “National Review takes all complaints seriously.”)
Dick Morris. On January 18, the newsletter of former Fox News contributor Dick Morris sent a message to its readers stating: “Please find a special message from our paid sponsor, Newsmax Health. Sponsorships like this help to allow us to continue to send you Dick’s commentary free of charge. We appreciate your support. DickMorris.com.” DickMorris.com then enclosed Blaylock’s ”5 Signs You’ll Get Alzheimer’s Disease” pitch.
DickMorris.com also sent an email offer from Newsmax / Blaylock on October 30, 2013, with the subject line: “These 7 Things Activate Alzheimer’s in Your Brain.”
Christian Broadcasting Network. Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network sent an email with the subject line “5 Signs You Could Get Alzheimer’s Disease” on January 9 to its email list. It contained the disclaimer: “This Select Advertising Offer is sent to you by the Christian Broadcasting Network as a paid advertisement and is not necessarily endorsed by CBN.”
CBN also sent an email offer from Newsmax / Blaylock on October 17, 2013, with the subject line: “These 7 Things Activate Alzheimer’s in Your Brain.”
Mike Huckabee. The Fox News host sent the “5 Signs You’ll Get Alzheimer’s Disease” email to his list on January 16, 2013. He wrote: “Please find a special message from our paid sponsor, Newsmax Health. They have important information to share with you. Sponsorships like this help to allow us to continue to send you my commentary free of charge but do not necessarily reflect my views.”
Huckabee also sent an email offer from Newsmax / Blaylock on September 10, 2013, with the subject line: “These 7 Things Activate Alzheimer’s in Your Brain.”
Herman Cain. Cain’s CainTV sent the “5 Signs You’ll Get Alzheimer’s Disease” to its list on November 1, 2012, along with a disclaimer stating it is from its “sponsor partner Newsmax.com - the sort of thing that helps us pay the bills here at CainTV. It carries no endorsement from us, but we appreciate your willingness to receive these messages.”
CainTV also sent an email offer from Newsmax / Blaylock on October 19, 2013, with the subject line: “These 7 Things Activate Alzheimer’s in Your Brain.”
Russell Blaylock’s advice is rated quackery.
Fox News pushed various myths about the latest challenge to the contraceptive mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy falsely accusing the Obama Administration of forcing “religious freedom [to] take a backseat to Obamacare.”
In a January 15 segment on Fox & Friends, Doocy and his guest, National Review Online editor Rich Lowry, discussed a new challenge to the contraception mandate provision in the ACA. This latest challenge, brought by a group of Catholic nuns from the charity Little Sisters of the Poor, argues that the mandate violates the religious freedom of the nuns because they disagree with the use of contraceptives.
This is not the first time Fox News has misrepresented the Little Sisters case. The fact is, the nuns are already exemptible from the mandate, as both Doocy and Lowry initially point out in the segment. All the sisters need to do is sign a form registering their religious objection — a requirement that Lowry calls “wrong” and “perverse.” For his part, Doocy said more Catholics should be given a “bigger carve out” under the ACA because they “just don’t believe in this stuff.”
Doocy and Lowry’s framing of this issue as an assault on religious freedom — “Little Sister vs. Big Government” — is bizarre. Although Lowry begins the segment by admitting the nuns are exempt from the mandate, he still somehow concludes that the administration “should let the nuns off the hook.” This upending of precedent would undermine all similar exemption mechanisms for religious objectors whose stance requires someone else to follow the law in their stead. Doocy undercuts his own argument that the government doesn’t provide enough exemptions for Catholics, who “by and large, stand against abortion and contraception” when he concedes that “they’re more in favor it, for various reasons, these days.” And in fact, 98% of sexually active Catholics use or have used contraceptives in their lives.
Lowry ended the segment by explaining that, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the government cannot substantially burden religious freedom without a “compelling governmental interest.” Whether or not signing a form is a “substantial burden” remains to be seen, but Lowry disingenuously suggests that the only compelling interest at play here is that the mandate apply to everyone, even though the mandate has improved access to contraception and other preventive care services for up to 47 million women. But apparently that’s not compelling enough for Fox News.
National Review Online columnist Mona Charen lamented the marginalization of anti-LGBT bigotry, writing that acceptance of LGBT people is largely due to “fashion” and decrying the affirmation of LGBT youth as “child abuse.”
In her January 14 syndicated column, Charen responded to a recent op-ed in The New York Times urging medical providers to ensure that transgender patients have access to fertility treatment. To Charen, the op-ed marked merely the latest indicator of society’s “obsession with sexuality as identity” and its “undermining of the best interests of children in favor of the self-expression of adults.” The decline of homophobic and transphobic bigotry is evidence to Charen that “[w]e have elevated sexual appetites … to an exalted status” (emphasis added):
There are limitless identities that students could be encouraged to cultivate as they mature. A handful that leap immediately to mind: American, humorist, musician, athlete, debater, nature-lover. Instead, our universities fall all over themselves to encourage unusual sexual identities, from homosexuality and lesbianism to transgender, bisexual, transsexual, and other. It’s all done in the name of “inclusion” and non-discrimination, but, let’s face it, there’s an element of fashion in it.Non-traditional sexual behavior is “in.” There are academic courses on offer at major universities concerning “queer theory,” pornography, and “lesbian gardening.” (Truly.) How can any serious academic treat pornography as a fit subject for college study? It’s more than a devaluation of the life of the mind; it’s an assault on human dignity.
We have elevated sexual appetites — especially unusual sexual tastes — to an exalted status, worthy of study, defining our natures and experiences, and outranking other traits in importance. In many states, there are moves to outlaw psychotherapy that purports to change a person’s sexual orientation. Without excusing or approving abusive efforts to brainwash gay people straight — and there are some hair-raising stories out there of people subjected to “aversion therapy” and so forth — it is interesting that we are being asked to deny people the opportunity to change in only one direction. No one is suggesting that if a straight person wants to become gay and consults a therapist who wishes to help him make that transition, that he should be prevented from doing so.
Perhaps gay activists aren’t campaigning for “ex-straight” therapy because their own experiences bear out the absurdity of the idea that one’s sexual orientation can be changed. But to Charen, simply acknowledging this fact brings “sexual appetites” to an “exalted status.”
Charen proceeded to criticize measures adopted to affirm transgender youth, mischaracterizing a California law that allows transgender students access to facilities that match their gender identities and condemning hormone therapy for transgender youth as “child abuse”:
This is child abuse. Children pass through phases. Nothing permanent should to be done to any child that is not medically necessary. Suppose a child decided that he wanted to be an amputee or a one-eyed pirate? We’ve lost all common sense in the face of this mania for sexual mutability.
Charen’s framing of the California law dovetails with that of other right-wing critics of the law, who have peddled baseless fears about inappropriate bathroom behavior that will result from letting each student “choose” which bathroom he or she wishes to use. In reality, school districts are implementing the law on a case-by-case basis to ensure that students using it really are transgender. Moreover, school districts that have implemented similar policies have reported no instances of inappropriate behavior.
And while Charen thinks it’s “child abuse” to provide hormone therapy to transgender youth, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that gender identity is often established by age four. Contra Charen, children who receive hormone therapy aren’t just going through “phases,” and families seeking hormone therapy for transgender children undergo vetting from medical professionals before being given access to appropriate medical care.
If Charen is truly interested in rectifying cases of child abuse, she could start by confronting the damage done when parents and family members aren’t accepting of their LGBT children and try to ignore their gender or sexual identities. Inconveniently for Charen, that might require discarding her rabidly anti-LGBT views.
Some of the very people lavishing praise on South Africa’s first black president worked tirelessly to undermine his cause.
The world is celebrating Nelson Mandela as a selfless visionary who led his country out of the grips of apartheid into democracy and freedom. But some of the very people lavishing praise on South Africa’s first black president worked tirelessly to undermine his cause and portray the African National Congress he lead as pawns of the Soviet Union.
In fact, American conservatives have long been willing to overlook South Africa’s racist apartheid government in service of fighting communism abroad. Below is a short history, and some explanation, of how conservatives approached Mandela with the hostility they did:
National Review predicts end of white rule would result in “the collapse of civilization.”
After Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, the magazine observed that “The South African courts have sentenced a batch of admitted terrorists to life in the penitentiary, and you would think the court had just finished barbecuing St. Joan, to hear the howls from the Liberal press.” By March of the following year, conservative Russell Kirk argued in the pages of the magazine that democracy in South Africa “would bring anarchy and the collapse of civilization” and the government “would be domination by witch doctors (still numerous and powerful) and reckless demagogues.”
Reagan described apartheid South Africa as a “good country.”
After President Jimmy Carter imposed sanctions on South Africa Reagan reversed course, labeling the African National Congress a terrorist organization. As he explained to CBS’ Walter Cronkite in 1981, the United States should support the South Africa regime because it is “a country that has stood by us in every war we’ve ever fought, a country that, strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals.” In 1985, he told an interviewer: “They have eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country — the type of thing where hotels and restaurants and places of entertainment and so forth were segregated — that has all been eliminated.” He later walked back the comment.
Jerry Falwell urges supporters to oppose sanctions.
The late Jerry Falwell urged “supporters to write their congressmen and senators to tell them to oppose sanctions against the apartheid regime.” “The liberal media has for too long suppressed the other side of the story in South Africa,” he said. “It is very important that we stay close enough to South Africa so that it does not fall prey to the clutches of Communism.”
180 House members opposed free Mandela resolution.
In 1986, 145 Republicans and 45 Democrats voted down a none-binding House resolutionurging the Government of South Africa to indicate its willingness to negotiate with the black majority by granting unconditional freedom to Nelson Mandela, recognizing the African National Congress; and establishing a framework for political talks. This included Dick Cheney, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Dan Coats, Pat Roberts, Joe Barton.
20 Senators and 83 House members oppose sanctions.
The 1986 bill cut virtually “all U.S. economic ties with South Africa, requiring American companies to cease operating there within 180 days.” Lawmakers had to override Reagan’s veto. Sens. Thad Conrad, Orrin Hatch and Reps. Hal Rogers, Joe Barton, and Howard Coble all voted against imposing sanctions on the regime.
Jack Abramoff leads think tank dedicated to tearing down Mandela.
In 1986, the South African government helped fund and establish The International Freedom Foundation (IFF), a conservative think tank designed to “reverse the apartheid regime’s pariah status in Western political circles” and “portray the ANC as a tool of Soviet communism, thus undercutting the movement’s growing international acceptance as the government-in-waiting of a future multiracial South Africa.” The Washington branch of the IFF listed, among others, Senator Jesse Helms, James Inhofe as advisers. The lobbyist Jack Abramoff led the organization.
U.S. Senator testified in support of the apartheid government.
“In the late 1980s and early ’90s, after returning from his Mormon mission to South Africa,” Flake lobbied for South African interests and in 1987, “testified before the Utah State Senate in support of a resolution expressing support for the government of South Africa while racial segregation laws were enforced — largely to support U.S. mining interests in the region.”
Now, it would be unfair to say conservatism spoke univocally in condemnation of Mandela. A group of upstart Republicans in the mid-80s, led by Reps. Vin Weber, Robert Walker, and Newt Gingrich pushed hard for the United States to take a more critical stance on apartheid.
But this group was bucking the conservative mainstream at the time. “South Africa has been able to depend on conservatives in the United States … to treat them with benign neglect,” Weber said. That has a lot to do with the enduring conservative hostility towards rapid change. Conservatives see broad challenges, even to oppressive systems, as dangerous “revolutionary” change, whereas slower “evolutionary” tweaks in a better direction would be preferable.
Reagan’s South Africa point man, Chester A. Crocker, made this revolutionary/evolutionary binary into one of his three main principles for thinking about South Africa policy. “The circumstances in South Africa do not justify giving up on the hopes for evolutionary change (as distinguished from a revolutionary cataclysm),” he wrote in a famous Foreign Affairsessay. Many in the West, Crocker believed, held “a mistaken assumption that American and South African clocks are synchronized-that our impatience signifies the imminence of the revolution.”
It was Crocker, of course, who was mistaken, writing only about a decade before Mandela was freed from prison. But this skepticism about the possibility and desirability of radical change (Crocker seemed to think any dissolution of the apartheid government would necessarily be in part a violent one), together with the obvious cultural affinity that mainstream conservatives felt with Westernized Afrikaner elites, made conservatives distinctly inclined to view Mandela’s calls for political transformation with jaded eyes.
Heritage Foundation says Mandela is no “freedom fighter.” “Americans nevertheless have reasons to be skeptical of Mandela,” the foundation warned as he planned to visit the United States in 1990. “First, Nelson Mandela is not a freedom fighter. He repeatedly has supported terrorism. Since Mandela’s release from prison and his subsequent refusal to renounce violence, the Marxist-dominated ANC has launched terrorism and violence against civilians, claiming several hundred lives.”
Conservative think tank links Mandela to communists. “When Mandela made his first visit to the United States in 1990, following his release from prison, the IFF placed advertisements in local papers designed to dampen public enthusiasm for Mandela,” Newsday reported. “One ad in the Miami Herald portrayed Mandela as an ally and defender of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. The city’s large Cuban community was so agitated that a ceremony to present Mandela with keys to the city was scrapped.
National Review labels Mandela a “communist” for opposing the Iraq war.
“[Mandela’s] vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise, given his long-standing dedication to Communism and praise for terrorists. The world finally saw that his wife Winnie, rather than being a saintly freedom-fighter, was a murderous thug.”
This positioning of Mandela as being on the wrong side of a divide between “friends” and “enemies” — once communism, in the 2000s Saddam and terrorism — is the most important ideological lesson to learn from this history of hostility to Mandela. Conservatives have a deep tendency to judge foreign conflicts principally by the proximity of each side to the enemy du jour.
The treatment of South Africa in Jeane Kirkpatrick’s famous “Dictatorships and Double Standards” essay, where she argued that authoritarian anti-Communist states were more amenable to transition to democracy than revolutionary socialist governments, exemplifies this point nicely. She listed Jimmy Carter’s more confrontational South Africa policy as an example of the Carter Administration taking “at face value the claim of revolutionary groups to represent ‘popular’ aspirations and ‘progressive’ forces–regardless of the ties of these revolutionaries to the Soviet Union.”
Modern conservatives explaining the movement’s Mandela position in the past 12 hours have repeatedly employed Kirkpatrick-style to argue that conservative positions were, at the time, reasonable. “In retrospect, it’s easy to think of Mandela as the grandfatherly statesman,” Matt Lewis writes, “but the Soviet Union posed an existential threat; it’s not like nuclear weapons weren’t aimed at us. Such a thing has a way of focusing your priorities. In that milieu, one can understand why the U.S. would have been very cautious about anyone who had even ‘dabbled’ in Communism.” Deroy Murdock describes the view at the time as “Nelson Mandela was just another Fidel Castro or a Pol Pot, itching to slip from behind bars, savage his country, and surf atop the bones of his victims.”
Now, both Lewis and Murdock readily admit that this view was in hindsight mistaken. But the overemphasis on the friend/enemy distinction that blinded conservative’s to the justness of the ANC’s cause has hardly gone away.
Investors’ Business Daily, a business newspaper widely viewed as having a conservative editorial page, decided to dip its toes into racial politics over the weekend with a political cartoon about the case of Trayvon Martin. But instead of presenting a valid criticism of the negative reactions to George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict, the publication invoked lynchings— one of the great tragedies committed against Black Americans — to try to make its point.
In an attempt to level criticism at Al Sharpton, the Black reverend-turned-TV host who has been deeply involved in cases of racial injustice, the cartoonist depicted various incidents in which Sharpton has been active as people being hanged from a tree.
Conservative magazine National Review Online also ran the piece as its “Cartoon of the Day.”