Reality Check: Religious Nonsense & The Law

I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.

—Muhammad Ali


This week religion has jammed its hefty portion of silly into the ways of reality. Again. Why not? Humans are proficient at propping up fantasy to avoid obeying the law. Lord knows I do.

Firstly, we have the Supreme Court case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby or some company against the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain, claims that it not only sells knick knacks but stands for Christian values and therefore refuses to adhere to the ACA mandate that it provide contraception to its employees as part of its health plan.

Good one.

Although I admire this craziness, it has no grounds. Religious freedom is not a free pass to discriminate or ignore laws. This was the point of obliterating the egregious Jim Crow horror show which originated in churches in the South and was propagated by Christian organizations like the Klu Klux Klan. It expanded to owners of diners, hotels, gas stations, etc., all of whom decided that they did not care for civil rights because it jibed with their interpretation of Christian ethics.

The other proposed opposition to the law is contentious objector status, which was broached during President Barack Obama’s visit to the Vatican this week.

This bit of fluff theater was a nifty time to bring up three very political notions expressed by the popular Pope Francis over the past year. One is income inequality, a biggie in the First Century Jesus movement but mostly ignored by the preponderance of Christians worldwide, especially in this country. Two was the call for tolerance of all gender, creed, race and sexual orientation. The last one had many conservatives in the Vatican running for cover assuring the intolerant across the globe that the Holy Church still has their back. And finally, the aforementioned conscientious objector option for those who adhere to church dogma that preaches contraceptive use is equal to abortion and should be banned.

Whew, a lot to get to, so let’s start with conscientious objector.

Claiming conscientious objector status was famously tried in the Supreme Court in 1971 when boxing champion and social activist Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted by the United States Army during the Viet Nam War on religious grounds. However, although the court ruled in Ali’s favor it did not cite his “conscientious objector” defense, but rather that the United States government had failed to properly specify why Ali’s application had been denied, thereby requiring the conviction to be overturned. In other words, it was an easy unanimous vote due to a technicality, and quite frankly because popular opinion had swung significantly in Ali’s defense due to the abject disaster that was the Viet Nam War, which had heightened considerably since the time Ali was stripped of his title and banned from boxing in 1968.

You see, unlike Hobby Lobby, Ali manned up and took the unfair stripping of his title and languished for years to stand by his principles. He broke the law and paid the price, something this company is trying to avoid.

Hey, no more a sympathetic companion could Hobby Lobby find than this space, but on the grounds that they can pick and choose what laws they want to obey is not realistic, not to mention its lawyer began opening arguments trying to conflate a corporation with the rights of an individual under the Constitution. The Civil Rights Act is enough precedent to halt Hobby Lobby denying health care coverage to its workers, specifically women, who have several health-related reasons for needing contraception beyond sexual activity.

But there is no need to bring up religion and sex in the same sentence in this or any lifetime.

Shit, there are plenty of religions that believe blood transfusions are against protocol, others cite the evil of surgery, and still others believe photographs steal your soul and leeches are the way to go. But forget religion. That’s small potatoes. Can you imagine if some giant chemical concern decides it wants to break even more laws than it currently does? You think your drinking water is poisoned now?

Now the idea of income equality is a cute aside, but for the Catholic Church it is a joke. It may be a noble cause espoused by Jesus, who was by for all intents and purposes an egalitarian, which is a fancy philosophical term for socialist, but have you seen the friggin’ Vatican? Bling on bling piled on bling. It’s like Ted Nugent preaching gun control. Please.

When the Vatican strips its jewels and gold and sells it to feed the poor, I’m on board.

Quick question: What would Jesus do? Short answer: Strip the Vatican bare and give everything to the poor.

Never mind the marriage equality thing. No one is asking the Christians to be gung ho, and no one should care. Using religion to discriminate is as old as dirt. We’ll leave this one alone.

Finally, the most appalling aspect of the week is that Barack Obama met with the leaders of an organization that has perpetuated a century-plus of unchecked and unprosecuted pedophilia; more to the point aided and abetted these acts by shamelessly covering up. A more disgusting display by a president is hard to imagine. Who wants their tax dollars going to this immoral sham?

Come to think of it, maybe it would be a boon if Hobby Lobby won this case, pushing religion into the public sector, then we can start taxing religious freeloaders and get on with the 21st century.


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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus” and “Y”.