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Thursday, October 27, 2016

It is a case of Supreme hypocrisy.

The adjective refers to that nine-person tribunal at the top of the American legal system, the noun to its latest act of judicial malpractice. Meaning not the notorious Hobby Lobby decision handed down at the end of June, but a less-noticed ruling a few days later.

We have to revisit the former to provide context for the latter. On June 30, the court ruled that a “closely held” corporation may deny employees health insurance covering any contraceptive method that conflicts with the company’s religious beliefs. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito faulted the government for failing, under the Affordable Care Act, to choose the “least restrictive” means of ensuring women access to all FDA-approved methods of birth control. He pointed out that the ACA already makes an exemption for nonprofit groups with religious objections; simply fill out a form certifying those objections and they are relieved from having to provide the disputed contraceptives.

Alito saw this as a win-win. Employees get the birth control they want — they pay directly to the insurance company — but the government does not “impinge” on the organization’s religious beliefs.

Three days later, the court issued an injunction freeing a Christian school — Wheaton College in Illinois — from having to fill out the certification form. The school had argued that simply doing the paperwork — the form asks only for name, contact information, signature and date — infringed upon its religious liberty because it would trigger the employee’s ability to get the disputed contraception. So the same form that the court held to be a reasonable compromise on Monday was judged an unreasonable burden on Thursday. Or as Justice Sonia Sotomayor put it in a withering dissent, “Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today.”

Indeed, the malleability of the court’s logic suggests these rulings are based less in law than in the personal beliefs of the men on the tribunal. One gets the sense they chose the desired result first, then backfilled whatever “reasoning” would get them there.

Which is not just Supreme hypocrisy, but also Supreme faithlessness. And, yes, Supreme sexism.

I once saw a protest sign to the effect that if men gave birth, contraception would be bacon flavored and dispensed from vending machines. Can anyone argue the truth in that? Would we even be having this debate if some company had a religious objection to Viagra — or vasectomies?

And how far down the line must a company’s religious scruples be honored anyway? If it is too much to ask Wheaton College to fill out a form because an employee will be “triggered” to buy contraception on her own, does the school also have a right to scrutinize and approve other purchases made with the salary she earns from them? If she buys whiskey or pornography with “their” money, does the school have a right to object?

Not to mention the frightening precedent the court is setting in the name of religious liberty. It makes faith a potential get-out-of-jail-free card, exempting the holder from any law he finds onerous. Given that Mormons once embraced a theology of racism and evangelical Christians still deny basic freedoms to gay people, the danger of this is obvious.

In its rush to confer personhood on organizations and constrain women’s choices, the court steers us toward a day in which corporate rights would trump human rights and you could no longer take for granted that you would be served by a given business without first checking to make sure you didn’t offend the owner’s religious sensibilities. It’s hard to imagine what that world would be like.

Pretty soon, we may not have to.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected])

Photo: Matt H. Wade via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Dominick Vila

    The pro-business decisions made this Court should be reason enough for Democrats, women, and ethnic minorities to vote. This SCOTUS is doing everything it can to advance the interests of the elite and our multi-nationals at the expense of the middle class, the poor, our right to choose, our well being, and our democracy.

    • Billie

      Just another way to chip away at the ACA. No telling what will be next.

      • Dominick Vila

        Probably medication to fight AIDS.

        • Billie


      • idamag

        That is what it is.

  • adler56

    Scalia, Alioto and Silent Thomas need to be removed from the Court. Roberts
    should be removed and deported.

    • dana becker

      outside of them dying how do we remove them?

      • Dominick Vila

        We are stuck with them until they die or retire, which is likely to happen within the next decade. That is why it is so important to have a Democrat in the White House and have control of the Senate.

        • elw

          They can be impeached, but of course that has to start in the House. So the first step would be to get enough democrats out there voting to help make them the minority party in the House rather than the Majority.

        • idamag

          The Supreme Court is an example of why we should be very careful of who we elect.

          • Dominick Vila

            I agree! With several Justices approaching retirement within the next few years, the last thing we need is a republican in the White House or a Republican controlled Senate.

      • idamag

        2/3 majority vote of Congress and that will never happen with the Congress we have now.

    • JSquercia

      At the very least we do not to pay that cipher Thomas .I Scalia TWO votes since Silent Clarence always votes with Scalia.

  • mykelb

    Treason is cause for impeachment and may be cause for a death sentence. Where are the employee’s Constitutional rights in this? Just run over by Corporate whores.

  • latebloomingrandma

    Americans better think this through a little more. One need only look to the Middle East to see what living under a theocracy would be like.

  • Roger Williams

    Thank you for reminding us that the Hobby Lobby decision was despicable, and that the follow up Wheaton College decision makes real liars out of the five chauvinists running the Roberts court. Frankly, the Roberts Court has succeeded only in proving that the US Supreme Court is a meaningless, puffed up demigod that needs to be torn down and replaced. One more institution that is for sale to the 1% and pseudo religious morons. Imagine that any of these so called religious extremists actually knows a thing about religion except what they make up in their all male women bashing clubs. How true that if any of the sanctimonious white men in power might lose a privilege, then would they have another temper tantrum to ensure that privilege is restored to them, yet they chuckle about how much power they have to deny women basic freedom over their own bodies. What a sick group they are!

  • browninghipower

    If this court and these decisions were reversed politically and ideologically, in today’s climate, the goopers in the House would already have have begun impeachment procedures against 4 of the 5. The Dems, of course, have no balls. Should they attain House majority, the first thing Nancy would say, ‘Impeachment is off the table.’ Of course. Dems are sniveling cowards and fucking corporatists…only slightly better than religious fascists goopers.

  • elw

    I would say, if nothing else the behavior of the stilted SC Court is reason enough for people to understand why their vote counts. Just imagine how different our Country would look if in the 2000 Presidential election just 75 thousand more of the Democrats in Florida who did not voted had done so. No Iraq war, no judge Roberts, and no big tax break for the very rich. Do not make that mistake this November vote and tell every young person old enough to vote in your family why they should do so.

    • dana becker

      I certainly am and got one person to register. Talk to everyone and tell them every horrible bills the Republicans are passing and the ones they will pass should they ever get the majority. We must not let them ever get the majority again. It will be the death-knell for our democracy if they do.

      • elw

        Good. Hope that more people join us.

        • rustacus21

          … & that may well depend upon U! Can YOU rise to the challenge when your nation needs you? NOW is that time in EVERY election year from now on… so how important is your Democracy to you?!

  • ExRadioGuy15

    Why is anyone surprised at the Court’s majority ruling in the Wheaton College matter?
    Come on, people…wake the f*ck up…the Fascist Feckless Five Cowardly Con Christian majority has already committed 15 impeachable offenses of the Judiciary Act of 1789 (which, despite claims to the contrary, do cover the actions of the Supreme Court)…the only way to reign the FFFCCC majority in is to impeach them and remove them from the Court….

  • DorothyMadigan

    Not to get too deeply into the religious aspect of all this, there are a couple of misconceptions (no pun intended) in the article. Vasectomies ARE considered sinful by the Catholic church. So is in vitro fertilization, egg harvesting and tube tying. They’re not usually shouted about, but the ban on them exists, and always has. It’s better if those who write these things get the facts checked before going off on the church for talking one way about one thing and another way about another. It’s consistent down the line, whether you believe in it or not, and for Catholics who really follow the church’s teaching, the line is drawn not between methods of contraception, but contraception itself and all its ancillaries.

    • johninPCFL

      Hmmm. Interestingly enough it’s OK for those medical procedures to be covered by insurance. The corporate religious police will now go after AIDS drug coverage, gay couples, and older single people. In other cultures it’s called “sharia”.

      • DorothyMadigan

        Just giving the facts here. Opinions not included. The objection to the author’s implication stands. If you have a beef, get the facts right.

    • JSquercia

      The Court quickly corrected itself and made clear that their ruling could apply to ALL forms of Birth Control . Alt had attempted to make sound as if This was a very narrow ruling but n damn well that it wasn’t Oddly enough several Conservatives SCREAMED at me to READ the Decision citing Alito’s Opinion .
      Another interesting par of his opinion was to say it did not apply to other beliefs such as those concerning Vaccinations or Blood Transfusions . As Ginsberg pointed out this is in effect favoring One religious belief over another .

    • Allan Richardson

      Strangely, the Catholic doctrine allows artificial insemination with the husband’s sperm (as some forms of infertility are caused by too low a sperm count, which can be “pumped up” in the laboratory), BUT (this is really strange), the only religiously acceptable way to COLLECT a sperm sample is by having intercourse using a deliberately leaky condom! Just in case God decides to let the wife conceive naturally with the few that would make it through the holes and make the whole medical thing unnecessary.

  • howa4x

    The world is up side down. Staunch conservative and strict constitutionalists supporting religion over liberty, in direct contrast to the words of the constitution. Scalia may bill himself as a defender of he constitution but in reality he and Alito are religious ideologues who want to introduce their Catholic upbringing into the body of law by carrying the fight against unmarried sex into he highest court in the country. It is almost like a Bishop is whispering in their ears. This is not to single out a faith, but the Catholic clergy is the most vehement against contraception for any female for any reason.
    If there is one reason not to elect a Republican to the presidency it is that we have to protect liberty and not give the religious party another Supreme court pick.

    • rustacus21

      The Liberal/Progressive majority will take care of that. & remember, even Republican voters understand when the world is upside down. It’s up to US to get them to see the propaganda spewing from corporate media is all designed to dishearten & disillusion, so Liberal/Progressives won’t show up & vote. Each of us must be sure to now make a difference like NEVER BEFORE…

    • idamag

      Those so-called constitutionalists know diddle-dee about the meaning of the constitution.

  • dubinsky

    high-handed indeed!

    these nine people act like their opinions are so dam important!

    who are they to judge?????

    we need expert legal opinions from Miami Herald newspaper columnists and Sarah Palin and Cecily McMillan and J Fred Muggs.

    there are always gonna be SCOTUS decisions that seem lousy. some of them actually will be lousy.

    every decision will displease some of the people all of the time.

    that’s just the way it is in a large diverse democracy when a disagreement about social policy doesn’t get settled by the political process.

    • rustacus21

      … & yet, who are we to allow them to run over women’s rights as if this were the 1790’s? How dare we allow them to tell them a corporation is a person, when we can’t sit in a room w/a ‘corporation’ & give him/her/it the opportunity to explain why they should be granted such an extraordinary RIGHT? Ever try talking to a dollar bill? How about the trillions that talk to you in propaganda adds to instruct you to vote AGAINST your OWN best interests? How about telling children in inner cities rural communities to keep ‘testing’ while kids in the suburbs enjoy full educational curricula, in spite of laws that say education MUST be fair, equal & comprehensive for ALL of America’s children? ‘Displeasing’ & ‘devastating’ are 2 very different things & America better start knowing the difference FAST…

      • dubinsky

        “women’s rights” are not sacred nor unlimited and spouting off as if they were is unavailing.

        legal rights are granted by the law…and these nine high-handed old folks are in charge of interpreting the law.

        much as I was surprised and disgusted by this ruling, women are not prevented from seeking medical care.

        it was a setback but not an utter outrage.

        and you can drone on about all the things that you (and even I) don’t like…….. but not every dam thing in the world is ours by “right”.

        you want things, you have to work to get them…..and getting better laws passed, is a lot of work.

  • rustacus21

    Thinking this over, on the whole, there isn’t a decision this SCT, during the Obama administration at least, has not made that had been friendly or for the safety & well-being of the citizen majority. Put simply, if U are a religious (christian) fundamentalist, are hostile to the most intimate of women’s issues, issues advancing the protection of non-Whites, in an increasingly hostile society toward non-Whites, protecting the interests of multinational corporations, in spite of the dangers they pose to broader society, the conservative majority has been on the side of big money & big business 95% or more of the time. I’m going to assume that people know that Supreme Court Justices can be impeached? The worry of a Liberal-appointed judge being impeached should be dismissed, as the nation is now trending distinctly Liberal/Progressive & the decisions by both legislators & the SCT majority show it, in terms of the desperation of both. Conservatives are in fact, losing their sanity over this reality & we, as a nation better get our act together & start voting like we understand this nation began Liberal/Progressive, has always legislated so in crisis, but the need for greater proaction has never been greater than now! Our laws must reflect the coming apart of the anti-Democracy faction in America. If we are truly pro-Democracy, we’d better vote in EVERY upcoming election – no matter how bad things get – like never before in this nation to PROVE our nation can ONLY prosper w/Liberal/Progressives guiding the levers of power – which is where the PEOPLE are – & where the Constitution & Bill of Rights INSTRUCTED WE BE!!!

  • JSquercia

    Let’s not forget that Alito I the one who silently mouthed the words “you lie” during the President’s State of the Union Address as the President criticized the Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case .The President did NOT LIE .
    Alito has been PROVEN a LIAR as he First claimed the decision was a VERY narrow decision . The Court immediately expanded it

  • Daniel Jones

    “…St. Peter’s callin’ but I can’t go….
    ‘cuz I OWE MY SOUL–to the company store.”

  • idamag

    The “supreme” court just gives those who are advocating the overthrow of the government more ammunition.