Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Secularist Apoplexy

Some in the secular media seem to have become been virtually apoplectic in their reactions to yesterday’s Hobby Lobby decision. Once again, we’re hearing about a "war on women.” Much has been made, for example, of the fact that the 3 women justices – 3 of the only 4 women ever to have sat on the Supreme Court – were all on the dissenting side. (An alternative interpretation might be that political party probably had as much to do with the division than gender did, but whatever!)

A "War on Women” makes for a good campaign and fundraising slogan, however, and my guess is that much of the intense angst we are witnessing will work its way quickly into the mid-term campaign. And, given the fairly broad consensus in our society in favor of easy access to contraception, I would anticipate that it may well prove an effective issue in the campaign.

That said, the fact remains that no one is likely to lose access to contraception as a result of this decision. The Government failed to prove that the employer contraception mandate was the least burdensome way to accomplish its goal (according to the standard set by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act), at least in part because it has already established an alternative way to provide contraception coverage for employees of non-profit religious employers. All it has to do now is to make that same accommodation available to the kinds of companies covered by this case. (Of course, the Government could also just pay for the coverage directly, which would have avoided the whole conflict in the first place.)

The fact that an alternative is available – already exists – to guarantee contraception coverage clearly shows the factual falsehood of current “war on women” claims. So why the fuss?

What was clearly at stake here in this case was not whether women could get easy access to contraception coverage but whether other citizens (in this case, their employers) would be coerced into being accomplices to serve the extreme ideology of an expansive secularist state apparatus. From that ideological vantage point, of course, it might seem to make sense to prioritize such coerced cooperation, thereby institutionalizing the supremacy of secularist ideology and definitively privatizing contrary points of view (especially religious beliefs).

Yesterdays's Supreme Court decision is not likely to limit anyone's access to contraception. But it is a step toward restoring balance to our public life by acknowledging the legitimacy of multiple perspectives (including religious beliefs) - just in private but in the public square.

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