Saturday, July 05, 2014

Contraception: 'Behold your gods, O Israel!'

[Jeroboam t]he king took counsel, made two calves of gold, and said to the people: “You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” And he put one in Bethel, the other in Dan. This led to sin, because the people frequented these calves in Bethel and in Dan. He also built temples on the high places and made priests from among the common people who were not Levites (I Kings 12:28-31).


King Nebuchadnezzar questioned them: “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you will not serve my god, or worship the golden statue that I set up? Now, if you are ready to fall down and worship the statue I made, whenever you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, dulcimer, harp, double-flute, and all the other musical instruments, then all will be well; if not, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace; and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, you should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s face became livid with utter rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual and had some of the strongest men in his army bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and cast them into the white-hot furnace. They were bound and cast into the white-hot furnace with their trousers, shirts, hats and other garments,
for the king’s order was urgent. So huge a fire was kindled in the furnace that the flames devoured the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into it
(Daniel 3:14-22).

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad" -- spoken by Prometheus in Longfellow's poem The Masque of Pandora.


This past week, we have witnessed lots of seemingly sensible, intelligent people lose their minds in rage as majority of the U.S. Supreme Court refused to endorse President Barack Nebuchadnezzar's order to bow down before the false gods: "Estrogena," "Prophylaxis" and "IUD." Decisions in three of many score of lawsuits were handed down by the nation's highest court this week: Monday brought the now-famous Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood rulings; Thursday brought a less well known, yet much potentially more far-reaching ruling in Wheaton v. Burwell. The latter is actually a temporary injunction, but the nature of the ruling and the circumstances of it suggest it may prove very consequential.

So what happened?

On one level, we had a bureaucratic mandate which conflicted with the plain text of existing law: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; which, it should be noted, was enacted in response to a prior Supreme Court ruling affecting religious freedom. In that case, the "left" position was (a) to decry the ruling's intrusion into a minority's religious practice (smoking peyote), and (b) to urge the passage of RRFA, which sailed through a Democratically-controlled Congress and was swiftly signed by President Bill Clinton. RFRA was and is crystal-clear about the high hurdle any government act must clear in order to pass legal muster; yet all this was forgotten by the court's "liberals" when the issue wasn't allowing people to smoke peyote, but to refuse to facilitate contraceptive use.

The white-hot rage really came to the fore when the second decision -- a temporary injunction, let us note -- several days later. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor issued a "scathing" dissent that, I must say, shows them -- not the majority -- in a bad light. Note well that Justice Stephen Breyer, their ally in the Hobby Lobby ruling only days before, conspicuously absented himself from their dissent.

I'm sorry to say that these three justices embarrassed themselves. Justice Sotomayor makes the tendentious claim that the Hobby Lobby majority "retreated" from its own decision in a matter of days; but that only follows if you wilfully misconstrue what Hobby Lobby actually said; and then, even more laughably, assume that the other six justices (including one who dissented from Hobby Lobby) don't even understand the prior ruling!

At issue is the so-called "accommodation" that the Obama administration has offered to objecting religious organizations, which the Hobby Lobby decision pointed to as an alternative to the mandate as it affected profit-making enterprises like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Justice Sotomayor and her co-dissenters claim that the Hobby Lobby ruling gave its blessing to the accommodation -- and then, several days later, changed their minds. That claim requires you to believe that Justice Kennedy, in particular, didn't know his own mind when he wrote his concurrence, in which he, himself, highlighted this accommodation.

Here's an alternative explanation: the majority cited the accommodation not in order to declare it entirely satisfactory; but merely to demonstrate that there existed a less-burdensome way for the government to carry out it's birth-control-for-everyone mandate. Why is that so important?  Because RFRA explicitly says the least-burdensome means must be used; and if anything less-burdensome could be pointed to -- anything at all -- then Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood prevail. Simple as that.

Even those who are generally joining in the hair-on-fire reaction to these rulings admit that the Hobby Lobby decision did not sanctify the so-called "accommodation." Note what Timothy Jost admits, in a moment of lucidity: "Although Hobby Lobby did leave open the question as to the legality of the accommodation..." -- but the moment passes, and he proceeds to act as if he never said what I just quoted. Why? Because that's the tune being played by the three dissenters, who likewise assert that

After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contra­ceptive coverage requirement violates RFRA as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, . . . retreats from that position. That action evinces disregard for even the newest of this Court’s precedents and undermines confidence in this institution.

Madam Justices, the majority "relied" on the "accommodation" solely to demonstrate a key point in the Hobby Lobby case: that a less-restrictive means was available. That's it. Nothing more.

Mr. Jost faithfully follows the tune being piped by Sotomayor & Co.: "The Wheaton College decision seems to contradict directly the Hobby Lobby decision the Court had entered three days earlier. The Court offered virtually no justification for its change of position." But wait: was it indeed a "change of position"? This is where the votes of both Kennedy and Breyer are noteworthy. Kennedy's concurrence in Hobby Lobby is the centerpiece of Jost's repackaging of Sotomayor's argument; and Breyer gave full support, with Sotomayor, to Ginsberg's dissent in Hobby Lobby. How does Mr. Jost explain this?

He doesn't -- except to resort to the most laughable of arguments: because they are "men." Egad!

Now it is true that the six men lined up one way, while the three women another.

But how is this meaningful? The implication is obvious, but Mr. Jost won't spell it out, because if he did, he'd have to defend what is utterly indefensible: that these justices voted this way because of their chromosomes!

Then there is the obvious rejoinder: did the women rule as they did, because they are women? If so, shouldn't the credibility of their dissent be just as tainted?

Of course, Mr. Jost is hardly the only one to make this sort of idiotic pseudo-argument. But when immodestly claims to be "the leading journal of health policy thought and research," promising "high-level, nonpartisan" "analysis," one accepts being held to a higher standard.

One expects less of the Huffington Post, and Ronald Lindsey doesn't disappoint with this howler: The Uncomfortable Question: Should We Have Six Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court?.

This echoes, in somewhat more respectable tones, a disgraceful ad that has been placed in the New York Times by the aptly named Freedom from Religion Foundation. I wanted to reproduce the ad right here -- it's so ludicrous -- but I can't seem to do that. So it's here.

To continue to demonstrate my thesis that these people have gone mad, note who the FFRF decides to put up front as the heroine of their civil-liberties-not-dogma crusade: Margaret Sanger! That would be the same Margaret Sanger who advocated the secular dogma of eugenics: more reproduction of the "fit" and less of the "unfit," going so far as to describe people with undesirable traits as "human weeds."

What undesirable traits might those be? Well, she did have something called "The Negro Project," and she wanted to dispel the notion that she was out to "exterminate the Negro population"; just why she thought anyone would get such a notion I'll leave to you to deduce. Go here to read some of her choicer quotes about "a race of human thoroughbreds," as contrasted with those who are "defectives," and "feeble-minded." Weigh the fact that she chose to give a talk before the "women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey," read some of her choicer remarks here, and decide for yourself what to make of the Freedom from Religion Foundation's chosen champion.

Meanwhile, let's look at the actual "argument," such as it is, from the neo-Nativists of the FFRF and the Huffington Post: there are too many d*** Catholics on the Supreme Court!

FFRF at least has the modicum of sense to qualify their argument: there are too many of the wrong kind of Catholics on the court: they evince no objection to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the sixth Catholic.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lindsay recognizes the peril of his argument (perhaps he thinks of how it would sound to highlight the Jewishness of three of the four disssenters), and attempts to inoculate himself from the charge of bigotry. Why, Mr. Alito actually "relies squarely on Catholic teaching" to make his argument!

In Justice Alito's majority opinion, he relies squarely on Catholic teaching about "complicity" to explain the supposed burden. In doing so, he reiterates the argument that the Catholic Church has made in the dozens of lawsuits it has brought challenging the contraceptive mandate. According to the Church, it violates the moral obligations of a Catholic to do anything -- anything -- that would "facilitate" the provision of contraception to an individual. So even if one is not using contraception oneself, if one facilitates access to contraception by others, a grave moral wrong has been committed.

Now, if you go read Alito's ruling, you will never find the word "complicity" anywhere in the decision (that is, if my search function worked properly). You will find the word "Catholic" referenced only in the dissent. So I'm wondering, just what evidence does Mr. Lindsay have for his claim that Alito "relies" on Catholic teaching?

All he offers are the words I bolded in his quote above. Catch that? If the Catholic Church makes an "argument" in a court of law, that argument somehow transforms into "Catholic teaching." Wow! Think about that claim: if an argument is made in court by you-know-who, it's simply impossible that the argument could be accepted for any other reason than but a sectarian bias. See that?

It's the same argument used by anti-Catholic bigots who claim that opposition to abortion is merely a Catholic "dogma," totally ignoring the fact that lots of people who are decidedly not Catholic -- and even non-believers in any religion -- oppose abortion just as stoutly as we furriner papists.

Now, if you think I'm being unfair to Mr. Lindsay, well, go read the article and come back and tell me what more he offers to substantiate his claim that the Hobby Lobby incorporates "Catholic teaching" into secular law.

I assert, contra Mr. Lindsay, that there is nothing particularly Catholic about objecting to being told -- by government -- you must help someone else do what violates your conscience. And if Mr. Lindsay or anyone else is unconvinced, I make this prediction: it would be ridiculously easy for a researcher to find examples of this very argument being made -- in courts of law, in this country -- by non-Catholic advocates.

I'll make the bet: I will stake a significant amount for me -- $500 -- that I can find one such example. And only one is needed to explode Mr. Lindsay's argument: if just one time a lawyer made the very same argument without being tainted by Romanism, then the argument is no more a sectarian "doctrine" than is asserting the law of gravity. I won't go searching for free, but $500 -- which I'll give to the parish St. Vincent de Paul fund -- will make it worth my while.

There are so many more examples to cite. There's this lachrymose New York Times article, pitying the poor, powerless, blindsided President! Like a latter-day Johnny Appleseed, all he wants is to do good: but no! So misunderstood is he!

According to the Times, he is "reeling"! The poor man "must move fast" but it's so hard to react quickly. After all, who could have seen this coming? I.e., other than the fact that this was his signature legislative objective, announced in 2008; enacted, 2010; he announced the contraceptive-coverage goal in 2011; the text of the 2012 mandate was "two years" in the crafting; and then there were two more years of litigation.  How could they have known?

If you've been following all this discussion, you know well how many more examples of this lunacy I could cite. But even shooting fish in a barrel can be tiring at some point. I've got confessions shortly.

1 comment:

Sevesteen said...

People on any side of any issue should be wary of enlisting the government to advance or enforce their views. From what I've read, the Church supported a version of mandatory universal health care without birth control included.

I've probably mentioned it here before, but I've supported and donated to Planned Parenthood. However, I don't think they should get government funds, and I don't think Hobby Lobby should be required to pay for birth control of any sort. That's part of a bigger issue, that employers shouldn't be forced to offer employee benefits at all, and that there shouldn't be a tax structure favoring employer paid benefits over individually paid benefits.

Initiating force is generally wrong, even if done to further goals I support.