Hobby Lobby: look behind the headlines [Commentary]

It is the lawyers we have to fear, not the Supreme Court

  • Pin It

Supreme Court ruling allows companies to claim religious exemption from the requirement to offer birth-control coverage in worker health plans

The Greens, the evangelical Christians who own 500 craft shops called Hobby Lobby, aren't the people on whom we should be focusing our anger this week.

Neither is the Mennonite Hahn family, owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties They aren't the bad guys.

The five male justices on the Supreme Court who supported the companies' refusal to provide contraceptive care to their female employees on religious grounds aren't the enemy here, either, although many might dispute that point.

It's the lawyers. They are the ones we must watch.

Particularly, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a boutique Washington firm that brags it will take on the cause of any religious group, from "Anglicans to Zoroastrians." They recruited Hobby Lobby for this case.

And the much more sinister and more heavily funded Alliance Defending Freedom, founded by Christian right leader James Dobson, which seeks, as its website trumpets, "to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system."

While the Becket Fund relishes the philosophical debate about the role of spirituality in human life and in human society, the ADF wants to create in the United States a "Christendomic" state. And it has been at the front of defending people with religious objections to birth control, abortion and homosexuality. They recruited Conestoga Wood.

The ADF was behind the Arizona bill that would have allowed businesses and individuals to refuse to serve gay clients, according extensive reporting by Josh Israel for Think Progress. With its $40 million war chest, it has been the tip of the spear against Planned Parenthood and has advised Russia's anti-gay movement, according his reporting.

In addition, ADF funds the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which trains Christian "sleeper lawyers" and places them in judge's clerkships, state attorney general offices, Congressional staff, in the military and at the United Nations.

According to the ADF website, "exceptional Christian law students from many top-tier law schools receive intense training in constitutional law and Christian worldview. They are then empowered to rise to positions of influence as lawyers, legal scholars, policy makers, and judges who can impact America's legal system."

This is not illegal. But it is dark and unsettling.

Becket was founded by Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, who followed his twin passions of theology and law at Notre Dame and is animated by the debate over whether secularism would eventually pull America away from its moral center. It mattered less to him how you worshiped your god than that you worshiped.

Becket supporters have been largely conservative and largely Catholic, according to reporting at The American Prospect by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux. And their coffers filled after the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage, including money from the dreaded Koch brothers.

But the lawyers for Becket have supported a Jewish prisoner in Florida who was denied Kosher food and have taken on a land-use case in Tennessee involving a mosque.

Meanwhile, the ADF uses these kinds of issues to spur donations by generating fear among the faithful that a Christ-centered United States is under siege.

What does this mean for the rest of us? Those of us who cherish a modest spirituality in ourselves but who also make room in our conscience for the woman who wants the power to plan the number and the timing of her children?

Those of us who are dismayed by abortion but who are not convinced that a fertilized egg, free floating in a fallopian tube, is a person?

While we might engage in a spirited conversation with the likes of the Becket Fund, the religious and political conservatives behind the ADF are nibbling away at birth control, equating it with abortion, ignoring all the benefits it has meant for women, infants and families and working tirelessly to take it away.

Why? Because, against all facts, reason and good sense, these men — and women — believe that the pill was the equivalent of the snake in the garden and that it, more than any other social or public health development, has undermined the family, the community and a man's place at the head of both.

You might think that the random crazy talk of politicians like Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, that women use birth control to protect themselves from their own "recreational behavior" is just that. Crazy talk without any power.

But it is not. This notion, and others like it, are deeply held beliefs by those who think that the government is forcing them to accept social behaviors they find deeply wrong and that are offensive to their God.

And the most offensive behaviors include not just homosexuality, but the sexual initiative of women and their power to control its consequences.

That is where we should direct our anger this week.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at sreimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.


To respond to this commentary, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.
  • Pin It

The "crush" defense [Poll]

Attorneys for Maureen McDonnell and her husband, former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, told a jury this week that the couple wasn't scheming to get rich by abusing the prestige of the governor's office, but rather that Mrs. McDonnell had a "crush" on an executive and couldn't help but allow the man to lavish $150,000 in gifts on the pair while they happened to promote his diet supplement. Is that plausible?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not sure

EDITORIAL POLL

PHOTO GALLERIES