There’s a disinterest in religious-political headlines in the States. I wonder if any of you followed the recent Town of Greece Supreme Court ruling released this May? I share much of your guilt – I had never heard of the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius case before I took a course on religion in the public sphere this spring.
In brief, on one side of the case are the for-profit corporations Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties. On the other is politician Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2009 to 2013.
Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, corporations are mandated to provide healthcare to their employees; one of the articles included in that mandate is the supply of contraceptives for company employees. Controversially, the two plaintiff corporations claim exemption from the ACA’s requirement on the grounds that providing the contraceptives would contradict their religious beliefs. Their case appeals to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is designed to prevent laws that “substantially burden” a person’s free exercise of religion, and to compel the federal government to accommodate religion whenever it can.
Some readers might question the scope of the consequences of the case deliberation, apathetic towards whichever resolution the Supreme Court might reach. You shouldn’t. This case decides whether for-profit corporations should be granted the same religious privileges and unalienable religious exercise rights as individuals. If the justices decide in favor of the store proprietors, they open the door to claim after claim to exemption from government regulations by corporations on the grounds of religious belief. As Ruth Marcus from the Washington Post correctly questions, “What happens when company after company balks at providing any contraceptive coverage? What happens when they decline to provide spousal benefits in jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage?”
In the words of the Supreme Court justices, “A parade of horribles” might very well ensue.
Even over the last few days, American passivity to general political processes has appeared and reappeared to me. This last Saturday, I was speaking with a friend originally from Egypt. He commented on the striking difference in social media usage between his homeland and the U.S. “People back in Egypt use Facebook and Twitter to post their political beliefs,” he said. “People fight and unfriend each other online.”
Just now, I pulled up my Twitter account. The very first tweet on my live stream contained a short video of a hedgehog tip-toeing across a wooden floor with the caption “off to steal yo girl” and the hashtag “#hedgehogadventures”. Not a political leaning in sight.
Hedgehog video aside, I know about the landmark religious liberties case now, and the ruling on the case is looming. The Supreme Court has set the date for a decision later this month. So go against the grain this June and be attentive to this upcoming religious headline. When the verdict’s released, talk with friends, discuss with teachers. Don’t give up discussion of religious liberties to our nation’s political elite. Engage the issue.
Contact David Mallick at [email protected].