Hobby Lobby: Not About Religious Freedom

Jill FilipovicI always thought that Cosmopolitan was just a silly fashion magazine. But I’ll admit, I have never so much as looked inside an issue. Then today, Digby linked to an article by Jill Filipovic, Hobby Lobby Supporters Insist Decision Isn’t Sexist, Tell Women to Close Their Legs. It’s one of the best things I’ve read yet in the aftermath of Burwell v Hobby Lobby. (See my discussion: SCOTUS Says Not All Religions Are Equal.)

Primarily, the article is about the reaction of people on the right to women who had the audacity to be angry or disappointed with the decision in the case. It includes some real gems from Twitter. Filipovic made the infinitely reasonable observation, “Really glad the same #prolife folks who oppose abortion rights are making it harder for women to prevent unintended pregnancy.” AmericaWoman responded, “@JillFilipovic be accountable for your own blood I’ll keep your legs closed.” (I know, it doesn’t exactly make sense, but you get the idea.) There was a whole lot of discussion about keeping legs closed and using aspirin tablets. In fact, #CloseYourLegs was very big for a while.

Hobby LobbyOf course, when it was a man writing, the tweets normally used the word “whore.” The unalterably vile and stupid Patrick Dollard tweeted, “MSNBC Whore Irin Carmon: Hobby Lobby Ruling Is Nothing But An ‘All-Out Assault’ On Contraceptives.” Ssgt. Richard Davis tweeted, “IF YOU WANT TO BE A WHORE & SLEEP W/ EVERY MAN YOU FIND PAY FOR YOUR OWN BIRTH CONTROL. 10 BUCKS AT WALGREENS. SO GO BE WHORE’S.” And Tim Gradous was a total winner, seemingly believing that God is dead or has changed his mind, “Two Aspirin between knees is 100% effective, God knew. If you can’t pay don’t Play…” Note also how Mr Gradous seems to think that pregnancy is solely the concern of the woman.

What’s especially terrible about all of this is that I figure that these are just conservatives without enough control of the ids. The five men on the Court who made up the majority probably think these same things. They just know better than to communicate their thoughts in such a raw form. I don’t say this lightly. We know that the brain works that way. With all due respect to Stephen Colbert’s satire, we do pretty much decide with our “guts” and then use our higher brain functions to justify those primal “thoughts.” As smart as he may be, I think the fact that 24 was once Antonin Scalia’s favorite television show demonstrates that there is more gut than brain on the court. If the five conservatives on the court had been women, at least some of them would have dissented and the case would have been struck down. There is no doubt of that.

Jill Filipovic also noted what I think is going to be the lasting legacy of this decision:

Hobby Lobby isn’t the first time religious employers tried to assert their beliefs as a justification for denying services or discriminating. In her Hobby Lobby dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg notes other cases where religious company owners objected to generally applicable laws because of their religious beliefs: a restaurant owner who did not want to serve black customers, since his religious beliefs included racial segregation; health care club owners who refused to hire any single women who didn’t have their fathers’ permission to work, any married women who didn’t have their husbands’ permission, anyone living with a member of the opposite sex outside of marriage, and anyone “antagonistic to the Bible,” including “fornicators and homosexuals.”

In the long run, I think that Burwell v Hobby Lobby will turn into one of those historical embarrassments for the Supreme Court like Dred Scott v Sandford and Plessy v Ferguson. It’s like the Court has opened a wound in the law that conservatives will claw away at. And I would go further than Ginsburg. At least there is a Biblical case to be made for segregation. There is no biblical case to be made against birth control. And, in fact, until the mid-1970s, protestants didn’t have a problem with abortion, much less birth control.

The only really important thing I learned from the racist Ayn Rand was how totalitarian regimes oppress their people. They don’t rigorously enforce all kinds of laws. They just have all kinds of laws laying around that they apply to anyone who becomes a problem. Well, going forward, the Supreme Court has set up a similar situation. Companies (I’m sure the “closely held” part will go away soon enough—especially if we get any more conservatives on the court.) will have all kinds of religious rights—as long as those religious rights go along with what the conservatives on the court believe.

The point that Filpovic makes is that this case isn’t about religious freedom at all. It is about conservatives who have never made peace with the slipping power of patriarchy. Of course, it’s interesting that the same conservatives who want women to stay at home with a Duggar-style family are not so interested as to allow union rights and minimum wage laws that might make a single-earner household possible. The overall conservative agenda isn’t just to keep women down. The whole thing is about keeping everyone but the power elites down. One thing that many people seem to forget is that birth control doesn’t just free women; if anything, it frees men more. And the power elite don’t like the poorer classes to have freedom. Corporations are people because they are owned by the rich. A zygote’s rights trump those of the host mother because she’s poor.

This is modern America.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Hobby Lobby: Not About Religious Freedom

  1. I think you’re on to something very important; contraception reduces poverty. Always has, everywhere in the world. And no matter what most conservatives claim about belief in "pure market forces" reducing poverty and hence being a social good, it’s a sham. They want poverty, and lots of it. Poor people, the more desperate the better (and poor parents are pretty desperate), make for low-wage employees.

    It’s odd, the disconnect in popular American attitudes towards female sexuality. Everyone knows that women are more likely to prefer stable, monogamous long-term relationships than men. (Not all women and all men, of course!) So our culture is full of references to women being a "ball and chain," some good-natured, some less. And yet the meme of women-as-whores persists — even though a woman using contraception is usually looking to have a satisfying sex life with a committed partner.

    I guess, by modern standards, the Pilgrim Puritans were positively filthy. They wrote passionate letters using erotic, Biblical language to describe sex. And they almost certainly used the contraceptive methods of the period (as women have been doing for the history of the species, or else they die!) Modern right-wingers really do hate the old traditions, don’t they?

  2. @JMF – Absolutely. Look at the mortgage interest deduction. At least a lot of the push for that was based upon the fact that if people own their own homes and have to pay the mortgage, they are less likely to strike. Fundamentally, social conservatism is about economic conservatism. The social conservatives may think they get their ideas from the Bible, but the only reason they go anywhere is because they further the interests of the rich.

    I don’t think we can stress enough that the one thing that really drives the conservative base is hatred. All the stuff about whores and sluts has little to do with sex. They are just words to put down a minority group. These are vile, small minded people who by and large vote against their own interests in the name of "getting the <whatever>!" You’ve heard of "useful fools"? Let’s call them, "Useful bigots."

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