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Human Rights Cup: Corporations=1, Human Beings=0

June 30, 2014

In a stunning (but not unexpected) decision, the anti-human rights, anti-sexual freedom Supreme Court of the United States affirmed sexual freedom for corporations and denied it to human beings.

Not good. Very, very bad.

The decision is not out of line with the way the Roberts’ court has found in most recent rulings, but certainly completely out of line with the intent of the United States Constitution.

We at Woodhull don’t believe that your employer should be able to dictate your health care or medications to you. Period. With all the hooplah from the “right” around “Obama-care” and the concern that some corporation will be making your health care decisions for you based on your age or likelihood to survive, it would seem oxymoronic that this same group of individuals would be (successfully) pushing to establish the right to do just that.

There is a War on Sex, and this is a terrible wound inflicted on the most fundamental human right of all – your right to make your own decisions about your body, your health, your life.

Here are just a few reactions to the Hobby Lobby decision showing how many different communities of interest are affected.

Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, notes

“…It conjures up fake religious freedom rights for corporations while being blind to the importance of birth control to America’s working women.

The justices have set a dangerous precedent…In years to come, many women may find their access to birth control hanging by a thread. “

Who cares about this? Those who believe the Constitution really did mean that we should separate Church and State.

Lisa Emina Weiner-Mahfuz, Vice President of Development and Programs at The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

“People often ask me why–as a secular person–I feel so deeply about multi faith organizing and working for a progressive religious organization committed to abortion access and reproductive justice. Well today’s decision says it all. Religion is the battle ground all of our issues are fought on and progressive religious and lay leaders all over the country are an important component to transforming the debate on theological grounds. The right wing shouldn’t own the frame when it comes to our collective bodies, our lives, our families, our decisions. I’m even more committed after today!

To whom does this decision matter? Social and religious justice advocates, theologians.

Julie Gillis, Co-producer, writer, performer at Bed Post Confessions,  calls this out as a movement moment, saying

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is dangerous. Corporations now have the door opened for ANY religious discrimination (except specifically, transfusions!) This is targeted to women and reproductive choices only. You want union protections? They are being gutted. It’s time to get radical.”

Who wants to get involved? Individual activists and advocates for sexual freedom.

According to the National Law Journal,

“Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion criticizing the “startling breadth” of the majority’s opinion. “Persuaded that Congress enacted [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent,” Ginsburg wrote.

Ginsburg wrote that she expected claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to “proliferate, for the court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood—combined with its other errors in construing RFRA—invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.”

Who tells us how this happened? Jurists, attorneys, legal scholars

“Denying birth control to your workers because of your own religious objections to it superimposes your own personal beliefs about conscience and faith onto your employees. So does refusing to serve a gay person due to a religious objection to their sexual orientation,” Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress wrote earlier this year.

And today, from Carmel Martin and Joshua Field “American jurisprudence is rooted in a theory of religious liberty—where the freedom to exercise one’s religious beliefs is a fundamental right but one that is limited when the exercise imposes costs or burdens on others. As the Supreme Court said in Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, Inc., “The First Amendment . . . gives no one the right to insist that, in pursuit of their own interests, others must conform their conduct to his own religious necessities.””

What communities care?  The LGBT community for one.  Human rights advocates.  Reproductive justice activists….just to name a few!

Judy Waxman, VP for Health and Reproductive Rights, National Women’s Law Center says,

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling harms women’s health, but could also have far-reaching consequences beyond birth control. It could encourage bosses to use religion to attempt to disregard other laws that protect us — like in Arizona, where lawmakers — in the name of religion — recently tried to enact a law allowing businesses to turn away customers based on their sexual orientation.”

What movements are most directly impacted? Reproductive choice, reproductive justice, women’s rights.

What is at risk?  HUMAN RIGHTS!

This decision can be a perfect storm for the sexual freedom movement. No one group, no one community, no one issue stands alone against the religious exemption issue. This is a moment for engagement, for collaboration, for conversation and action. This is a moment to “get radical”.

When? How? Let’s take the energy of the outrage and apply it to conversations and strategies starting right now. And of course we have to point out that Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit would be a great place to meet up with others from around the country who are all working to protect sexual freedom and reproductive justice.

“Do NOT let anyone claim that #‎HobbyLobby is a victory for religious freedom. Religious freedom is your right to make YOUR decisions.” From the Reverend Debra Haffner, President of the Religious Institute.


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