Thursday, July 03, 2014

Taking it personally

The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision was announced while my friends M and H were helping me finish cleaning up my apartment on Monday. It's bad news for the Affordable Care Act - though I suppose that if the ACA survives the death of a thousand cuts its enemies plan for it (if the House Republicans' nuclear option doesn't do the trick), this might wind up hastening the day we abandon the bizarre idea that healthcare should be provided through one's work rather than as an entitlement of citizenship. If Americans are entitled to something, the state needs to see they get it.

It's harder to see a possible silver lining to the growing recognition of corporations as legal persons (already a grotesque distortion of the intention of the Fourteenth Amendment) entitled to things citizens are. The baleful Citizens United ruling recognized corporations as entitled to political expression (which, since they can't yet officially vote, can only mean buying influence). Now it seems a "closely held" corporation (90% of corporations in the land) can have religious convictions, and is entitled to live out the views it is thought to share with its owners in the workplace.
The blogosphere is abuzz with nightmare scenarios of religious weirdos and reactionaries who have a controlling interest in companies claiming a religious right to avoid stipulations not only of health care but civil rights protections, etc., for reasons not just principled but pecuniary or prejudiced. Of course most religions are less than committed to full equality as conceived by our current political dispensation...

But I have to confess myself intrigued also at the prospect of endless decisions about what counts as a closely held religious view. I can't wait to hear Winnifred Fallers Sullivan's take on it. Sullivan is the author of The Impossibility of Religious Freedom, a book arguing that the American idea that we might have state recognition of religious liberty without the state's having a theory of what counts as religion is a fantasy. Decisions about what is entitled to protection are being made all the time, often at local levels, and almost always by judges who have no academic training in the question...

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