Justice Ginsberg’s 35-page dissent in the Hobby Lobby case warned us that the majority opinion could have far-reaching implications, and she was right. The ink had hardly dried on the opinion when religious businesses and nonprofits began rallying for their own exemptions to ACA — and having those exemptions granted, illustrating that the supposedly narrow and restrictive Hobby Lobby decision was actually much broader. Now, women in the U.S. are facing an escalating attack on hard-won birth control access, and companies aren’t stopping there. They’re also going after LGBQT employment protections, arguing that the precedent set in this decision should allow them to set aside these legal protections in their employment practices.
As Wheaton College demanded the right to refuse birth control to its students, a flood of other religious companies, colleges and organizations followed suit, insisting that they shouldn’t be obliged to provide something that went against their religious conscience. The Supreme Court has ordered a review of denials of such cases among lower courts, sending a clear message that the outcome in the Hobby Lobby case was meant to be more broadly applicable than was originally admitted.
The message is being loudly received by religious groups, which are wondering how far they can push the envelope when it comes to crying “religious conscience” when they file requests to be allowed to flout the law. The latest chapter comes from, among others, Gordon College and religious leaders. In advance of a planned executive order banning LGBQT discrimination in employment at federal contractors, these groups are petitioning the President to include a “religious exemption” allowing contractors to discriminate against LGBQT applicants and staff. They’re citing the Hobby Lobby decision as evidence to support their case, claiming that the Supreme Court has clearly set a precedent.
The floodgates are opening, and the results are not pretty. Currently, the faiths pushing for such exemptions are Christian, and a growing number of Christian-owned businesses, groups and organizations are signing on to the attempt to legalize discrimination and turn some Americans into second-class citizens. In the course of arguing that they have the right to discriminate against their staff and communities, they’re relying not just upon the Supreme Court decision but also upon the assumption that it’s acceptable to impose their morals on their personnel.
Don’t lose hope for Christians, though — a few bad apples shouldn’t be allowed to spoil the barrel. 100 religious leaders went to the President strongly arguing against the enshrinement of LGBQT discrimination in an executive order. The signatories include noted Christian leaders and theologians who are morally and ethically opposed to discriminatory practices, and who support a clear separation between Church and State, as spelled out in the founding documents of the United States.
As the fallout from the Hobby Lobby decision continues, it’s likely that deeper religious and political fissures will appear in the United States. The fact that some Christian groups are already fighting about the decision and its implications is a warning sign of bigger arguments to come, and a larger culture war. Should conservative Christian thought dictate the rule of law in the U.S.?
Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography.
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