To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


Hobby Lobby


Editor’s Note: This editorial first appeared in the July print edition of The Oklahoma Observer.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s shameful Hobby Lobby ruling is an ice-water-to-the-face reminder that elections have consequences.

The five male justices decreeing “corporations are people, my friend” are appointees of Republican presidents whose politics ranged from far right to reactionary right.

Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush railed incessantly about “activist” judges, yet it is their high-court majority that epitomizes the worst of judicial activism.

In the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, for example, the justices sharply tilted the political playing field in favor of wealthy ideologues, unleashing the flood of Dark Money that swamped the recent Oklahoma primary.

And now, they empowered America’s deep-pocketed theocrats – like Hobby Lobby’s Green family – to impose their religious values on those they employ, all in the name of religious liberty.

Whose liberty? What the high court majority, the Greens and many of Oklahoma’s top elected officials fail – or refuse – to grasp is that freedom of religion includes freedom from religion.

The Greens’ businesses are not religious institutions [which enjoy exemptions under the Affordable Care Act’s contraception provisions]. They are corporations.

But in the age of Corporate Personhood, evidently, legal constructs can have – and exercise – religious beliefs.

Corporations have … souls?

Now that Greens can invoke their faith to excise contraception from their corporate-backed health care plans, what’s next?

A Jehovah’s Witness who would deny his company’s employees coverage for blood transfusions? A Christian Scientist who would demand her company’s workers commit to 30 days of prayer before doctor visits would be covered?

If the court’s latest ruling is taken to its logical conclusion, pacifists could withhold a portion of their income tax equal to their share of any war effort. Those who don’t “believe” in cars could opt not to pay highway taxes. And those who have no “faith” in government could quit paying taxes altogether.

Can any good come from the court’s latest ruling?

First, it could hasten the day when America joins the 21st Century and the rest of the industrialized world with single-payer health care. The employer-based health system is increasingly unworkable and unsustainable.

The only way to ensure freedom of – and from – religion when it comes to medical care is a single-payer system that allows individuals to access it according to his or her conscience.

Second, the Supreme Court may have given Democrats a gift for 2016 – a stark reminder that elections indeed have consequences.

Given the ages of most justices, the next administration likely will fill at least one, if not more, vacancies. Do Americans want a high court filled with ideologues – the model of recent Republican administrations? Or do they want justices committed to reason, to fairness, to equality for all, not just the wealthy elites?

The actions of a high court whose majority is driven by uber-right orthodoxy make the 2016 presidential election all the more important.


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Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.