Sunday, July 6, 2014

Leftist Editorial Exposes Consequence of SCOTUS's Narrow Hobby Lobby Reasoning

The Supreme Court’s narrow reasoning in its Hobby Lobby decision unnecessarily opened the door to Leftist attacks such as that its part of a “war on women.”

For example, consider the editorial by the New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board (SLEB), “Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling a free pass to discriminate.” The editors write:

Hobby Lobby’s insurance still covers men’s Viagra. What this tells you is that the distinction being made over birth control was never really about health, or medical fact. It’s about women having sex.

Of course, that’s not the case, which is why the SLEB quoted a statement by the “pro-Catholic” American Life League to imply it. The American Life League claimed the issue is “recreational” drugs vs. medical treatment, which the SLEB spent several paragraphs refuting. Then:

But no matter. Sexual politics dominated this case. The victim now is women’s reproductive freedom. Next time, it could be gay people. Once businesses have license to discriminate, what’s to stop them from claiming other religious objections?

The Ku Klux Klan once justified its racism on the basis of religion. Why should we accept the same excuse now for discrimination against women or gays?

But that’s just the point: The right to discriminate privately is inherent in the right to freedom of association. Rights don’t guarantee moral action, just action, within the context of the responsibility to respect others’ rights. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it,” goes the quote attributed to Voltaire, which pinpoints the essence of “unalienable rights” embedded in the Declaration of Independence. The Ku Klux Klan has a right to their religious beliefs, but not their rights-violating actions against blacks.

Because the SCOTUS only carved out an exemption to the government’s power to impose insurance mandates beneficial to a specific segment of the population—rather than invalidate that government power outright—the SLEB was left free wonder, logically, “If birth control qualifies for a religious exemption, why not vaccines, blood transfusions or anything else that violates a sincerely held belief?” Indeed, why not? More broadly, why should anyone need to beg the government for an “exemption” to exercise their inalienable rights? That’s exactly what the Supreme Court should have considered: An inalienable right by exemption is a contradiction in terms. Once the government starts violating rights—even for well-intentioned purposes like ending irrational discrimination and bigotry—”rights” become exemptions—i.e., permissions or privileges—granted by government, rather than inalienable individual possessions that governments can not infringe.

I left these comments:

The Supreme Court made the right decision in the Hobby Lobby case, but for the wrong reasons. As the editors observe—correctly, I believe—SCOTUS just opened up a pandora’s box of contradictions.

The fundamental issue is the inalienable right to live and associate with others by one’s own convictions and conscience—whether those convictions are religious, moral, economic, or otherwise, irrational or rational, discriminatory or non-discriminatory, religious or non-religious—so long as one’s actions do not violate the same rights of others. This freedom includes the making of employment contracts. An employer has the right to tailor his health insurance as he pleases—or offer no insurance at all. The employee has the right to negotiate better terms, seek work elsewhere, start his own business, or accept the terms and buy (or not) his own individual policy (which, unfortunately, government policy hinders).

The government had no right to impose the contraception mandate. It has no right to impose any insurance mandates of any kind, whether on employers, insurers, or individuals. It’s only job is to enforce contracts freely and voluntarily entered into, mediate contract disputes, and remedy/prosecute breach-of-contract or fraud cases—i.e., protect individual rights equally and at all times.

If the court had thrown out the contraception mandate on freedom of contract grounds—which means, on First Amendment grounds—it would have advanced everyone’s liberty.

As to the Catholic Church, it is blatantly hypocritical on this issue, as I have noted here. Catholic leaders enthusiastically supported the massively rights-violating ObamaCare, and then found themselves hoist by their own petard when they found their own (religious freedom) rights trampled.

The Supreme Court tried to straddle a fence with its narrow ruling. As usually happens when thinkers evade fundamental principles and the broader context, SCOTUS created more contraversy and uncertainty than it solved.

Related Reading:

Man’s Rights and Government—Ayn Rand

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