Uncommon Sense

November 7, 2016

Finally, Election Day

Now the next campaign can begin.

Seriously, I am wondering what the Republicans are going to do about the Supreme Court if Mrs. Clinton wins. If they rush to confirm President Obama’s nominee, who is quite a centrist, they will expose themselves for the political manipulators they are. Their reasoning for blocking confirmation of the current nominee for a record number of days was that the American people should have a say in this appointment through whom they elect as the new president; it should not be a “lame duck” appointment of President Obama.

If they stick with their faux narrative and wait to see who Mrs. Clinton will nominate, it might be a nominee even more progressive than Judge Merrick Garland, then they will have to trump up outrage that such a person would be nominated, when they have cast their lot on the wisdom of the American people to make a choice for president who would nominate justices for them.

Interesting boxes the Republicans seem to be fond of jamming themselves into. This is what happens when a political organization adopts a policy of “Logic, smogic, phht, who cares?”

March 29, 2016

Religious Liberty Runs Amok

The latest code words for the religious wishing to be able to discriminate illegally is “religious liberty.” The Constitution guarantees all of us the right to practice our religion without government interference. Unfortunately, the religious are now trying to impose their “rights” onto the secular government and onto us.

Basically, owners of businesses are claiming the right to refuse service to anyone that would violate their religious beliefs. This can include the businesses own employees. In a case before the Supreme Court a number of businesses say that being required to provide contraception services as part of mandated government health care provisions violates their religious proscription against artificial birth control. This is in spite of the fact that a specific religious proscription of artificial birth control, 98.2% of Catholic women surveyed volunteered the fact that they used artificial birth control. What this means is these business are arguing that the government needs to help them to enforce a religious prescription that the Church itself cannot enforce and enforce it on their employees whether or not they are Catholics. Amazing!

I have a novel idea: if you can’t do business without violating the law, pick another business.

If you are an Ultraconservative Jew who can’t interact with women or be in close proximity to women, don’t open an lingerie shop. If you are a Mormon who cannot drink coffee, don’t buy into a Starbucks. If you are a Buddhist who is forbidden to eat meat, don’t buy a McDonalds franchise. Seems simple enough.

If you truly accept the tenants of your faith, accept the limitations and don’t force the rest of us to enforce your chosen limitations on others.

Basically, it comes down to the idea that religion should not be used as an excuse to refuse service to anyone via a legal commercial enterprise. If you decide to go into business, you are accepting the premise that our government (which equates to all of us collectively) sets the rules and if you cannot abide by those, do something else.

You have the personal freedom to exercise your religion as you see fit; you do not have the collective right to make us exercise it as you see fit.

March 24, 2016

Sign This, Bitches!

A Supreme Court case is once again bringing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, into the headlines. According to the N.Y. Times, “The case, Zubik v. Burwell, is a collection of lawsuits by religious nonprofit organizations challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer health plans provide free contraceptive coverage to female employees. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from this requirement. The challengers, which include religiously-affiliated universities, hospitals, and social-service groups, want the same exemption. So the government offered them a special accommodation: Notify their insurer or the government in writing that they refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, at which point the government takes over.

“But this was not enough for the challengers, who say the notification process itself forces them to be complicit in what they consider a sin. They sued under a 1993 federal law that prohibits the government from “substantially” burdening religious freedom unless it can show the law furthers a compelling interest that can’t be achieved by less restrictive means.”

These “religious organizations” have been blithely signing “forms” that could be used to support all kinds of sinful activities for generations and there was not a peep out of them. But now they have to sign an insurance form! Oh, the inhumanity!

Just signing a form makes them complicit in sinful behavior? WTF? They readily sign forms every month that could be far, far worse; they are called pay checks. Their employees can take the money they are paid and buy birth control pills with it. They can donate money to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They can but illicit drugs. They can hire prostitutes. And yet, these “religious organizations” have been blithely signing “forms” that could be used to support all kinds of sinful activities for generations and there was not a peep out of them. But now they have to sign an insurance form! Oh, the inhumanity!

Will no one stop this persecution of religion?

March 12, 2014

My Religious Freedom vs. Your Religious Freedom

There is a lot going on under the label of “religious freedom” currently, including what could be some landmark Supreme Court cases. But it seems to me that a great many people are trying to drag all kinds of things not really aspects of religious freedom under its banner so as to strengthen their cases. This is wrong and I hope it gets squelched.

The idea of religious freedom in this country is the ability to practice your religion without the interference of the government or, really, other religions. This is extended to include practicing no religion at all. When this country was founded, you will note that religious freedom was not in the Constitution. In fact, religion wasn’t really mentioned. It took an amendment to the Constitution to forbid the federal government from endorsing any religion by giving it special favors, etc. Also forbidden was inhibition of any religion. Originally this meant only the federal government and quite a few states had their own sponsored denominations. Over time the wisdom of this was challenged and people finally came to the point that any state-sponsorship of religion was a bad idea and all of the states complied with this idea of government non-interference and non-support. (The argument the religious bought was “sure it would be nice to have the state collect a tithe for you, but what happens if another religion becomes dominant and takes over that state sponsorship? You are then out in the cold.” Today consider about what would happen if a very small state were to have a large influx of Muslims. Would people be happy having a Muslim state? Would that mean Sharia law could be imposed? Sorry, just trolling for Fox (sic) News viewers.)

Here’s the deal. If the government(s) have a law that effects religions, they must exercise it without prejudice. So, it is entirely appropriate for the federal government to impose a tax upon religious groups. There is no basis for not taxing them that makes any sense. But they cannot tax any such religious group any differently that the others. This is what religious freedom means under the law.

Note that Utah was told it’s petition for statehood would not be accepted by the Congress unless they outlawed polygamy, something promoted by the dominant religion of the state. This was acceptable in that Utah was not yet a state in the “United States” and did not receive full consideration or application of all of the federal laws.

Clergy who commit crimes are not immune to prosecution under the banner of “religious freedom.” They do not have the equivalent of diplomatic immunity to local prosecutions.

But, because there is a culture of “hands off” with regard to religions, various people interpret that in various ways.

A current case before the Supreme Court involves whether or not an employer can be required to provide health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage if that conflicts with the religious convictions of the owners. Churches, per se, are exempted from the requirements of this law, for no good reason other than political expediency, but to exempt everyone who has a “religious conviction” will open up a legal can of worms, a very large can of worms. There is no protection for these people under current “religious freedom” legal doctrine. We’ll have to wait to see if the Supreme Court decides to invent something whacko like its “corporations are people” doctrine.

For those of you who disagree with that last statement, consider this: employers provide their employees with a voucher that enables them to purchase contraceptives, pay for abortions, solicit prostitutes, buy illegal drugs, or drink one’s self into oblivion or with any other manner of vice the employees wish. It is called a paycheck. Once the employer transfers that voucher to the employee, they lose control over what the employee does with the funds it is worth. So, a business that employs even only good Catholics can be required to provide insurance that includes hospitalization, out-patient care, and contraceptive services and not have to worry because no good Catholic would avail themselves of the contraceptive services. Because no person can impose their religious beliefs upon another and neither can the government. That’s the law.

January 2, 2014

Slippery Slopes—Oh, My!

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently issued a temporary injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing the birth control requirement against an order of Colorado nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and related groups.

In their Supreme Court brief, the nuns said they faced huge fines if they failed to comply. They calculated that they would have to pay “an annual fine of approximately $2.5 million — for an organization that cares for 69 elderly poor people and operates with an annual budget of approximately $6 million.” Uh, that sounds like more than a little bit of an exaggeration. How could “health benefits” in their entirety constitute almost half of that organization’s annual budget, let alone the slap on the wrist fines of the ACA?

Since this group is an entirely charitable organization, associated with the Catholic Church, they fall into the middle ground between for-profit employers and churches themselves. And I think that there are discussable issues here. Are all of the employees of this organization Catholics? Are they an order of the Catholic Church or not? (If they are an order of the Catholic Church, they would be exempt, but if they are not part of that church and are independent, how do they get to claim that they are an “order of that church?”) If not, what about the rights of the non-Catholics? What happened to Obama’s sleight of hand that allows the government to pay for the contraception coverage so that the employer doesn’t have to? And the big one is 90+% of American Catholic women admit to using birth control sometime during their lives, so is the Church asking the Government to enforce a bit of their dogma that they themselves do not enforce?

And, the Supreme Court has shown more than a little faulty judgement in the last decade and a half (jumping in to decide the 2000 election inappropriately (according to Antonin Scalia), the Citizen’s United decision which was a massive reach, the Obamacare decision, etc.). I do not trust their deliberations to be enlightening.

And I am sure that the right-wing wingnuts will frame this as a “Why do nuns need birth control?” debate.

April 21, 2013

Remember “Activist Courts and Judges”?

Those of you long enough in the tooth (as I am) remember a conservative outcry against “activist judges” and “activist courts.” This began, I believe with the Supreme Court lead by Earl Warren and the Civil Rights Movement, although it might have gone back farther. The argument was that laws should be made by Congress, not by the courts.

Interestingly, now that the courts have a distinctly conservative bent, there have been no more outcries against “activist courts.” And the Supreme Court has been making bizarre decisions rewriting what many thought were settled laws.

Consider Bush v. Gore, the case that gave the 2000 election to George W. Bush. The Supreme Court’s decision to intervene was in contradiction of many decades of settled law (including Supreme Court decisions to the effect) which stated that states had the right to run their own elections.

Then there was Citizens United v. FEC in which the Supreme Court went out of its way to take a case and then reframed it and came in with a decision that corporations had the same rights as people, again overturning many decades of settled law.

This kind of behavior is endemic. Conservatives are against big government, except when they are in power when they expand the government and incur more debt. Conservatives used to be against government interfering in our private lives, until they embraced the abortion issue to attract their base.

And they were against activist judges and courts, until they got control of the courts.

Can you spell hypocrisy, boys and girls?

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