Narrow ruling gets wider

Well, that was quick. The Hobby Lobby ruling was supposed to be narrow, but the next day the Supreme Court clarified that the decision was wider than they implied:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that its decision a day earlier extending religious rights to closely held corporations applies broadly to the contraceptive coverage requirement in the new health care law, not just the handful of methods the justices considered in their ruling.

The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings in favor of businesses that object to covering all 20 methods of government-approved contraception.

Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby Inc. and a Pennsylvania furniture maker won their court challenges Monday in which they refused to pay for two emergency contraceptive pills and two intrauterine devices.

Tuesday’s orders apply to companies owned by Catholics who oppose all contraception. Cases involving Colorado-based Hercules Industries Inc., Illinois-based Korte & Luitjohan Contractors Inc. and Indiana-based Grote Industries Inc. were awaiting action pending resolution of the Hobby Lobby case.

And then yesterday, we learn (via here) that a group of faith leaders thinks it should have an even wider reach:

“We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need,” the letter states.

The Hobby Lobby decision has been welcomed by religious-right groups who accuse Obama of waging a war on religion. But Tuesday’s letter is different: It comes from a group of faith leaders who are generally friendly to the administration, many of whom have closely advised the White House on issues like immigration reform. The letter was organized by Michael Wear, who worked in the Obama White House and directed faith outreach for the president’s 2012 campaign. Signers include two members of Catholics for Obama and three former members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“This is not an antagonistic letter by any means,” Wear told me. But in the wake of Hobby Lobby, he said, “the administration does have a decision to make whether they want to recalibrate their approach to some of these issues.”

Here’s more from the letter:

As religious and civic leaders who seek to advance the common good, we write to urge you to include a religious exemption in your planned executive order addressing federal contractors and LGBT employment policies.

We have great appreciation for your commitment to human dignity and justice, and we share those values with you. With respect to the proposed executive order, we agree that  banning discrimination is a good thing. We believe that all persons are created in the divine image of the creator, and are worthy of respect and love, without exception. Even so, it still may not be possible for all sides to reach a consensus on every issue. That is why we are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.

Americans have always disagreed on important issues, but our ability to live with our diversity is part of what makes this country great, and it continues to be essential even in this 21st-century. This ability is essential in light of our national conversation on political and cultural issues related to sexuality. We have and will continue to communicate on these broader issues to our congregations, our policymakers and our nation, but we focus here on the importance of a religious exemption in your planned executive order disqualifying organizations that do not hire LGBT Americans from receiving federal contracts. This religious exemption would be comparable to what was included in the Senate version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the Senate with a strong, bipartisan vote.

Without a robust religious exemption, like the provisions in the Senate-passed ENDA, this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom.

I see, the common good dictates that certain groups need to be able to discriminate. Oh, and guys, if you liked the language in ENDA perhaps you should have pushed harder to pass it or at least not opposed it:

In a letter sent to legislators, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) argued that while workplace discrimination is wrong, ENDA goes beyond mere anti-discrimination.

“ENDA’s definition of ‘gender identity’ lends force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender’ as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality, which a person may choose at variance from his or her biological sex. This provision also fails to account for the privacy interests of others,” wrote the USCCB.

Update: And look at that, the ruling gets even wider.

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