Christian Heritage and Legislative Authority

Despite all of the memes on Facebook about how your boss’s religion trumps your personal rights, the Hobby Lobby ruling isn’t so much about bosses, employees, or even religion as it is about the legislative authority of Christians and those of Christian heritage pretending to be Christian. To illustrate that fact, Huffington Post ran a farcical article listing different activities, such as public sex and the use of hallucinogens, that could happen now that we abide by laws “a la carte”. But it’s hard to imagine anything on that list coming to pass unless well connected Christian conservatives claim that it must pass lest their Christianity be overburdened. And it can’t be just any Christians. The Huffpo article also mentions unpasteurized milk, the distribution of which the Amish have not been successful in legalizing despite it being against their beliefs to withhold from others food that they consume themselves.

The owners of Hobby Lobby like to present the appearance of towing the right wing Christian line, but their hypocrisy, as reported by Mother Jones, proves that it’s all for show. In addition to investing in companies that violate their fake principals, Hobby Lobby also sells tons of cheap trinkets imported from China, and doing business with China is no way to keep your hands clean of indirectly supporting non-Christian practices.

Based on Hobby Lobby’s non-Christian dealings and the fact that nobody from Hobby Lobby’s owning family would ever be forced to directly purchase the products that they object to, I don’t believe that anybody at Hobby Lobby felt that God would have been angry at them for violating his commandments. I believe that they objected to being told what to do by a president who doesn’t show due reverence to their Christian heritage.

Rallying behind the cross isn’t about religion, except for a few true-believers who have been duped into thinking that Christianity is compatible with the right wing agenda. Rallying behind the cross is about heritage, and what we’ve seen, more than once now, is that sometimes heritage is more important then merit when it comes to being heard by this Supreme Court.

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Money, Speech, & Bullshit

Conservatives and Liberals can disagree, and genuinely believe that their own points of view are valid. But more and more I’m coming to believe that most conservative points of view are lies that conservatives tell themselves to justify doing what they know is wrong. It’s like telling yourself that ice cream is healthy because it is made out of milk. It’s like a bully complaining that a nerd’s face keeps hitting his fist.

The McCutcheon decision is bullshit. The idea that money is speech is bullshit. I have a right to express my opinions, but the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee every method available for doing so. The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee my right to shout my opinions louder than local noise ordinances permit, or to paint my opinions on the sides of public buildings. Megaphones are not speech. Neither is spray paint. Neither is money.

The Supreme Court has often ruled that speech can be restricted for valid reasons. When you consider all of the restrictions on speech that exist despite First Amendment protections, such as restrictions against libeling, threatening, talking about classified information, or amplifying your voice above certain volumes, it’s absurd that that something which can only be considered speech in a highly metaphoric application of the word has more protection than actual speech does.

In the National Law Journal, James Copeland compared limits on campaign spending to limits on legal defense, or to telling people that they can’t spend money on abortions (apparently referencing Eugene Volokh but I can’t find the original). Do Mr. Copeland or Mr. Volokh, both men much more knowledgeable than I am, even think such analogies make sense? I could spend all the money I have on legal defense and still not match the resources available for my prosecution. And I can’t even grasp enough of a correlation between campaign finance and abortion spending to criticize the analogy.

With patriotic language about how the government shouldn’t restrict access to the political process, the Supreme Court restricted access for millions of ordinary people. This was the same court that overturned the Voting Rights Act, telling us that our country no longer requires such protections, because it has “changed”. And it was just one large step in a march to eliminate the voice of the people completely. In the past several years, the Supreme Court has used bullshit logic to reverse over a century of progress toward making the First Amendment meaningful to ordinary citizens. And it will continue to do so until we replace at least one conservative justice with one who will start with the law and reason outward, rather than start with ideology and interpret the law accordingly.

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.

They’re Trying to Spoil my Happy

I’m trying to hold on to the joyous feeling I had this morning but the negative reactions to DOMA that I’ve been reading and hearing recently made me go from wanting to hug a gay guy to wanting to beat the crap out of a bigot with an iron pipe.

Justice Scalia was the first jackass to attack my good mood. Not for dissenting, but for being such an outstanding hypocrite about it. From TPM: “24 Hours After Striking Voting Rights, Scalia Cries Out For Judicial Restraint

It’s worth reading, rather then just skimming, to realize the depth of Justice Scalia’s hypocrisy decrying the Supreme Court’s power to block the will of Congress. As TPM points out, regarding health care, Scalia was

prepared to repeal in its entirety a duly passed piece of legislation on the basis that it exceeded Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause and other provisions of the Constitution. This is so even though nearly 200 years of precedent establish that there is “no sort of trade” that Congress cannot regulate and that lawmakers have “full power” over interstate commerce.

and, about gutting the Voting Rights Act, TPM continues, “Just Yesterday”, Justice Scalia and and four others

had no trouble finding that a 50-year-old statute reauthorized less than a decade ago with overwhelming support should be invalidated with the wave of their wands.

While it seems silly to be surprised by Scalia’s hypocrisy, I still sometimes am. Just like I occasionally have to say, “Wow, it’s cold!” on an not-record-breaking Winter day, I also occasionally have to say “Wow, what a hypocrite!” after a typical action by Justice Scalia.

Moving from hypocritical to stupid, Rand Paul thinks this will open the door to marriage between humans and non-humans. I’m so fucking fed up with idiots comparing homosexuality to bestiality. The key difference is, “Consenting Adults”. You know what will happen long before liberals push for human-non-human marriages? Wingnuts like Paul pushing for marriages to the unborn. It’s the perfect marriage (pun intended) between idea of “personhood” and the mostly red-state tradition of marrying young.

As far as polygamy goes, I can accept the government saying “Pick one”, for the sake of record keeping and keeping a handle on beneficiaries. But other than trying to prevent people from bilking the government, I have no problem with somebody else’s polygamy. But thats just my opinion. In reality, striking down DOMA doesn’t open the door to polygamy any more than signing DOMA did. Think about it. It was DOMA that instructed the federal government to define marriage according to the Bible, and it’s the Bible, not gay rights activists, which supports polygamy.

Wonkette has more on the stupid.

The Wonkette link above also takes us to the violent:

Personally, while I think “I predict” is a matter of free speech, “Go get em” is incitement. Somebody should arrest that piece of shit.

All this over a ruling which doesn’t mean as much as a lot of people may think. This has done almost nothing, for example, for gay couples in Virginia.

But still, this ruling is a big step in the right direction (that’s the left direction, actually) and I’m not going to let the idiots and bigots spoil the moment. And I do have an iron pipe handy if I need it.

Talking About Impeachment

Assuming Justice Scalia’s new opinion about Wickard vs Filburn is what it appears to be, which is a convenient lie to explain why he is more loyal to ideology than to his own constitutional interpretations, then he should be impeached. He won’t be, of course, but as Nathan Newman points out

Talking about impeachment, however, is a way to label this right-wing Court majority as the partisan tool of corporate right-wing interests that it has become.

That the constitutional question about the health care mandate is nothing but a partisan, political, attack on the President is belied by the fact that ideologues who are leading the attack once supported such a mandate. That Justice Scalia plans to go along with the ruse appears to be indicated by timely reversal of opinion about a Supreme Court case which he once supported.

We can’t read Scalia’s mind to determine if he’s shaping his beliefs to support an agenda, but we can look at the evidence. While agreeing with Wickard vs. Filburn should coincide with support for the Affordable Care Act, proclaiming Wickard a mistake isn’t necessarily preparation for declaring ACA unconstitutional. And if Scalia ends up supporting ACA, it would be pretty strong evidence that his change of heart about Wickard was genuine.

But if Justice Scalia votes down ACA, despite his previous opinion which lays groundwork for supporting it, than it would appear that he is willing to flip on his beliefs in order to support political goals. That would not be good behavior for a Supreme Court justice, and would be reason to bring up the conversation about impeachment.

Talking about impeachment now will likely have no immediate effect, but it may reduce political influence on the Court in the future.