July 11, 2014 § 2 Comments
It’s not unusual for conservatives and progressives to feel as if the other side has lost their mind as issue after issue rolls through the political, social or economic landscape. But there seems to be a truly special brand of disconnect forming in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby that sets a new bar for liberal insanity. Sensational reactions on any side of an issue are commonplace, but the degree of outrage, bad arguments and ignorance expressed by progressive media and political figures against Hobby Lobby and the Court’s decision for religious liberty has in my opinion reached a new level.
On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of David and Barbara Green and their family business, Hobby Lobby (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.), affirming that individuals do not lose their religious freedom when they open a family business. This victory upheld a 2013 ruling for Hobby Lobby by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The focus of the Green’s opposition comes down the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate in Obama’s Affordable Care Act forcing the company to pay for 4 potentially life-terminating contraceptives through the company’s health insurance plan, forms of birth control that could end a pregnancy rather than preventing one. The Green’s religious convictions, rooted in historic Biblical understanding that all life, even life in the womb, is sacred, collided with the HHS-mandated abortifacients. So they, and Conestoga Wood, another Christian-owned family business, took their case to court.
In short, the court allowed these businesses to exclude coverage for just 4 out of 20 contraceptives on the plan, contraceptives that are relatively inexpensive and could be purchased elsewhere. It wasn’t over a broad category of medicine, or an expensive, potentially life-saving treatment method. Hobby Lobby just didn’t want to pay for 4 drugs on the menu that can cause an abortion. The other 16 were fine.
Since the ruling, the left has reacted in sensational ways that demonstrate vast ignorance and what seems like apathy for sound reason. Some examples:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (and wife of the President who signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law two decades ago), doesn’t appear to understand the ruling she opposes: “It is very troubling that a sales clerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer’s health-care plan because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception.” Opinions about birth-control are not at issue. Being forced to pay for abortifacients was the issue.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s voiced concern about the Hobby Lobby win was that “women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men.” He means the 5 conservative justices who decided the case. The Senate majority leader of the United States apparently thinks the color of the judges’ skin has a moral bearing on the decision, AND he is obviously unaware that only 4 of them are white.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to understand what the Hobby Lobby case was about, recently tweeting “Allowing CEOs to limit the medical procedures available to employees is a gross violation of workers’ religious rights.” How contraceptives qualify as medical procedures and how this decision hinders religious rights we may never hear an explanation for. And then there’s this, from a briefing at the Capitol: “That court decision was a frightening one, that five men should get down to the specifics of whether a woman should use a diaphragm and [whether] she should pay for it herself or her boss. It’s not her boss’ business. His business is whatever his business is, but it’s not what contraception she uses.” Pelosi expects it to be a boss’ business to pay for 20 contraceptives, yet it isn’t a boss’ business if he doesn’t want to pay for 4 of them? This is self-defeating logic. Also, Pelosi’s perspective of “five men” deciding for “women” is an effort to frame this case as a “war on women,” an obvious straw man fallacy.
It isn’t about race, sex, or birth-control, but every US citizen’s right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. This means we can not only go to church Sunday morning, but we can live out our faith and our deepest convictions in our everyday lives. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act sought to affirm the First Amendment of the Constitution and what our country’s Founders sought to establish, a union where differing religious expression could exist without government interference. That’s more or less why America happened; we didn’t have that freedom under British rule. When the House passed RFRA unanimously in 1993, the Senate passed it 97-3, and democratic President Clinton signed it into law, it became a reinforcement of a core American principal. RFRA doesn’t completely prohibit government interference in religious expression, but puts a specific limit on it. The government must have a compelling interest in interfering with religion, and if it has compelling interest, it must interfere in the least restrictive way possible. The Supreme Court found that the HHS requirement failed to do this in the case of Hobby Lobby and Conastoga Wood.
Seeing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a new and formidable enemy, the left’s answer to RFRA was to quickly introduce The Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act (even the name is a straw man) in an effort to effectively reverse the Hobby Lobby decision. Businesses like Hobby Lobby would be forced to cover all forms of contraception regardless of their own religious objections. This post is too early to see how that goes, but it forever misses the mark. As Representative James Lankford, R-Okla points out, “Hobby Lobby never argued against the ability for women to access contraceptives—they simply do not believe in being forced by the federal government to cover abortifacients.”
In some personal conversations I’ve had over this, I’ve heard the Pandora’s Box concern, that this case is a slippery slope to employer’s to discriminate freely on the basis of whatever an employer deems a religious restriction. The paranoia-laden “what ifs” a friend forwarded to me from an Upworthy post include the fact that “some religions don’t believe in medical intervention,” or eating meat, or might not want to provide HIV medicine to gays. Extreme fringe beliefs such as these are incomparable to the widely held concern for human life, in or out of the womb, so this kind of abuse of freedom is not likely as imminent danger. More importantly, the government would have a compelling interest in medical intervention, treating disease and preventing epidemics, so proponents of such cases would probably lose in court.
On Twitter I fielded a barrage of challenges that reflected quite a bit of confusion on the issue.
LiberalTweeter: “businesses are not people. Workers deserve contraception coverage.”
Me: “Businesses are made of workers, who are people, who actually do get contraceptive coverage.”
LiberalTweeter: “a business shouldn’t get to dictate which contraceptives their employees can choose.”
Me: “A business can choose to not pay for 4 harmful contraceptives out of 20. Employees still have choice.”
“Besides, there are many kinds/brands of contraceptives and Obamacare only covers 20. Sounds like it’s already dictated.”
LiberalTweeter: “why can’t the employee decide her OWN healthcare?”
Me: “She can get whatever coverage she wants, and she can pay for it too. Same as any other plan, ever.”
LiberalTweeter: “why should some woman be deprived of having it covered by the health plan that they PAY FOR WITH THEIR LABOR?”
Me: “What about the many other contraceptives & meds not covered by HHS or ANY plan? By your logic, EVERYONE is deprived.”
LiberalTweeter: “why are they bullying gay people to death?”
That’s where I gave up.
On Katie Yoder’s blog at Newsbusters.org, she has compiled a list of the Ten Most Hysterical Hobby Lobby Reactions, which is a great summary and picture of the scope of bad reasoning from the opposition to the ruling. Liberal media has labeled Hobby Lobby and Supreme Court justices tyrannical, segregationist, Taliban-like, religious extremists who are endangering the lives of woman, among other absurd comparisons. If “contraception is not my boss’ business,” why should your boss pay for it? The breadth of wrong-headedness is staggering.
I didn’t want this post to be just a rant. I do want us to earnestly pray for our country, our government, and our neighbors who have fallen into the confusion of the day. Ignorance and bad arguments are not new coming from liberal culture, but it seems to have hit a new level. It used to be that those caught in red herrings, non-sequiters and self-contradiction would try to cover up their poor form, but it doesn’t seem as if the left cares anymore. Maybe it seems to show up more because I’ve paid more attention to this case than other issues. Or maybe ignorance breeds more ignorance.
Or maybe Matthew 7:13 is truer than ever: “…wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The narrow road is too small for a bandwagon. And traffic on that broad road is getting heavier all the time.
October 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
A bold worldview commitment in public figures is surprising these days. At least that’s the impression I got from a recent interview with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by New York Magazine’s Jennifer Senior. Scalia is a committed Catholic and Senior is an Atheist (how committed is uncertain).
Early in the interview the 27-year conservative judge talks about his ‘originalist’ approach to finding meaning in the U.S. Constitution. Originalism is “the belief that the United States Constitution should be interpreted in the way the authors originally intended it.”
Interviewer: Had you already arrived at originalism as a philosophy?
Scalia: I don’t know when I came to that view. I’ve always had it, as far as I know. Words have meaning. And their meaning doesn’t change. I mean, the notion that the Constitution should simply, by decree of the Court, mean something that it didn’t mean when the people voted for it—frankly, you should ask the other side the question! How did they ever get there?
Interviewer: But as law students, they were taught that the Constitution evolved, right? You got that same message consistently in class, yet you had other ideas.
Scalia: I am something of a contrarian, I suppose. I feel less comfortable when everybody agrees with me. I say, “I better reexamine my position!” I probably believe that the worst opinions in my court have been unanimous. Because there’s nobody on the other side pointing out all the flaws.
Interviewer: Really? So if you had the chance to have eight other justices just like you, would you not want them to be your colleagues?
Scalia: No. Just six.
Interviewer: That was a serious question!
Scalia: What I do wish is that we were in agreement on the basic question of what we think we’re doing when we interpret the Constitution. I mean, that’s sort of rudimentary. It’s sort of an embarrassment, really, that we’re not. But some people think our job is to keep it up to date, give new meaning to whatever phrases it has. And others think it’s to give it the meaning the people ratified when they adopted it. Those are quite different views.
Constitutional Originalism and Biblical Literalism are not quite the same thing. The Constitution is a man-made document prone to moral error, even though our intent was to base it on Biblical moral principals. In some rulings, Scalia at one point wishes he had a stamp that reads: “Stupid, but Constitutional.” It’s not perfect. Biblical Literalism seeks the original meaning of God’s Word, which is perfect. There is a process for changing the Constitution; there is no such process for the Bible.
Christians can relate to the common principal of the two: seeking the original intent of the author. Modern liberalism embraces relativism, attempting to operate on the self-defeating principal that there are no immutable principals. If we are going to say the Constitution has authority, we can’t interpret based on the intent of the interpreters over and against the authors, unless through ratification we become additional authors. Some may want to ratify Scripture, but the best that can be done is to disregard its authority. Actually, that’s the worst thing we can do (Genesis 3), but a secularized society is surprised when people like Scalia show a regard for authority and truth, and that meaning matters.
THE POPE’S COMMENTS ON DIVISIVE ISSUES
Interviewer: I’m not inviting you to run down the pope. But what do you think of his recent comments, that the church ought to focus less on divisive issues and more on helping the poor?
Scalia: I think he’s absolutely right. I think the church ought to be more evangelistic.
Interviewer: But he also wanted to steer its emphasis away from homosexuality and abortion.
Scalia: Yeah. But he hasn’t backed off the view of the church on those issues. He’s just saying, “Don’t spend all our time talking about that stuff. Talk about Jesus Christ and evangelize.” I think there’s no indication whatever that he’s changing doctrinally.
I spent my junior year in Switzerland. On the way back home, I spent some time in England, and I remember going to Hyde Park Corner. And there was a Roman Catholic priest in his collar, standing on a soapbox, preaching the Catholic faith and being heckled by a group. And I thought, My goodness. I thought that was admirable. I have often bemoaned the fact that the Catholic church has sort of lost that evangelistic spirit. And if this pope brings it back, all the better.
Interviewer: The one thing I did think, as he said those somewhat welcoming things to gay men and women, is, ‘Huh, this really does show how much our world has changed.’ I was wondering what kind of personal exposure you might have had to this sea change.
Scalia: I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual. Everybody does.
Interviewer: Have any of them come out to you?
Scalia: No. No. Not that I know of.
Interviewer: Has your personal attitude softened some [toward homosexuality]?
Scalia: I don’t think I’ve softened. I don’t know what you mean by softened.
Interviewer: If you talk to your grandchildren, they have different opinions from you about this, right?
Scalia: I don’t know about my grandchildren. I know about my children. I don’t think they and I differ very much. But I’m not a hater of homosexuals at all. I still think it’s Catholic teaching that it’s wrong. Okay? But I don’t hate the people that engage in it. In my legal opinions, all I’ve said is that I don’t think the Constitution requires the people to adopt one view or the other.
Interviewer: There was something different about your DOMA opinion, I thought. It was really pungent, yes, but you seemed more focused on your colleagues’ jurisprudence. You didn’t talk about a gay lobby, or about the fact that people have the right to determine what they consider moral. In Lawrence v. Texas, you said Americans were within their rights in “protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”
Scalia: I would write that again. But that’s not saying that I personally think it’s destructive. Americans have a right to feel that way. They have a democratic right to do that, and if it is to change, it should change democratically, and not at the ukase [a mandate or decree] of a Supreme Court.
Interviewer: Whatever you think of the opinion, Justice Kennedy is now the Thurgood Marshall of gay rights.
Interviewer: I don’t know how, by your lights, that’s going to be regarded in 50 years.
Scalia: I don’t know either. And, frankly, I don’t care. Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it. At least standing athwart it is a constitutional entitlement. But I have never been custodian of my legacy. When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy.
With refreshing clarity, Scalia rightly reflects a Biblical view of homosexuality, separating the sin from the sinner, as well as that of the current law of the land: American citizens are not constitutionally obligated to accept homosexuality as normal. He is unashamed and unapologetic of this view, which is as he points out is nothing new in what the pope or his catholic church teaches. Popular opinion and the current “sea change” won’t change his conviction of unchanging truth.
HEAVEN, HELL, THE DEVIL AND JESUS
Interviewer: You believe in heaven and hell?
Scalia: Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?
Scalia: Oh, my.
Interviewer: Does that mean I’m not going?
Scalia: [Laughing.] Unfortunately not!
Interviewer: Wait, to heaven or hell?
Scalia: It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.
Interviewer: But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it?
Scalia: Of course not!
Interviewer: Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
Scalia: I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?
Interviewer: Can we talk about your drafting process—
Scalia: [Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.
Interviewer: You do?
Scalia: Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Interviewer: Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
Scalia: If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Interviewer: Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
Scalia: You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
Scalia: It’s because he’s smart.
Interviewer: So what’s he doing now?
Scalia: What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
Interviewer: That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the Devil’s work?
Scalia: I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.
Interviewer: Well, you’re saying the Devil is persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Scalia: Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament. … He got wilier.
Interviewer: Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
Scalia: You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
Interviewer: I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
Religion aside (if that’s possible), even conservatism implies that there us something in our convictions worth conserving. Even progressives are conservative in this way. Here we have a Supreme Court judge frankly talking theology, and nothing new and groundbreaking at that. Scalia implies that “mainstream America” believes in the Devil, but I think that depends on which mainstream America he means. Regardless, he is relaying simple, historic Christianity. Truthfully speaking your worldview is certainly permitted and particularly Constitutional. But it’s just that kind of boldness, spoken not only on Sundays, but in the context of Scalia’s career, that Secularism finds surprising and weird.
That may be the thing about Christian worldview conviction that surprises atheists the most. From a secular viewpoint, religion is something that ought to be compartmentalized to one area of your life, if you choose to be religious at all. But committed believers like Justice Scalia and other committed believers don’t relegate religion to church on Sunday or the confines of their family gatherings. We see his candid religious honesty and boldness on the job. And not just any job, but in a very high-profile public position with the United States government, a place many feel should above all be bereft of religiosity. Scalia living out his faith in public shocks Secularists. This reveals Secularism itself as a religion, one that is practiced seven days a week by it’s devoted adherents. No doubt, if worldview matters, we will carry it with us wherever we go.