Christian Exceptionalism

Recently, I commented on a ThinkProgress article about Hobby Lobby

If you live in this country, you indirectly support acts that are against your beliefs. Sailors are served pork for breakfast, paid for with our tax dollars. Jews, Muslims, and religious vegetarians don’t get a discount on their taxes because they don’t believe in the slaughter of pigs. Every reasonable effort has been made to separate Christian fundamentalist employers from the act of providing contraception, but they’re still not happy. Their argument is a lie. It’s not really about religious beliefs. It’s about keeping the Christian Right on a pedestal where they can have influence over U.S. law that others don’t have. Anything that threatens their special status is what they call discrimination.

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Pacifists and moral vegetarians have a better argument about being forced to pay for acts that they find reprehensible, but our government does not exempt them from paying for the slaughter of animals or the bombing of civilians. There is precedent for denying certain religious exemptions and passing others, but it’s murky. The Volokh Conspiracy has a “Guide for the Confused which basically says the court has to balance the burden that a law places on a person who feels that his religious rights are violated by it, and the compelling interest that the government has in enforcing it. And the government’s compelling interest usually wins.

To say that Hobby Lobby is burdened by the requirement to provide an insurance plan that includes contraceptive coverage is a far stretch. Unlike what someone who replied to my ThinkProgress comment wrote, this is not like forcing a Jew or a Muslim to buy pork. It would more like forcing employers of all faiths to provide meal vouchers. If such a law was passed, could you imagine a Jewish or Islamic employer being allowed to provide a special voucher that could only be used for Kosher or Halal food? Of course not. And not out of disrespect for the Jewish or Islamic faith, but simply out of reason. The employer is not being forced to break his own commandments any more than he is by providing a salary that his employees could spend on all kinds of sinful products and services.

To suggest that Hobby Lobby is unduly burdened is to suggest that the test for burdening Christians is different than the test for burdening non-Christians. It would also suggest that a corporation has religion, but that’s a whole other flaw in the argument. We have already gone too far in catering to religious organizations who feel that Christians are unduly burdened whenever other people aren’t forced to accommodate their beliefs. This is not about free exercise. This is about placing the Christian right above the law.

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1 Comment

  1. Christian exceptionalism is a scourge indeed. That Arizona law about businesses denying service to gays was the same deal. It’s amazing they don’t realize that their bill promotes the right to discriminate rather than the right to practice religion freely.

    Reply

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