Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Hobby Lobby decision and this year's pro-discrimination "religious freedom" laws

William Greider in Theocracy Versus Democracy The Nation 04/03/2015 how the current controversy over state "religious freedom" laws was encouraged by the Supreme Court's radical Hobby Lobby decision and have redefined the purpose of religious freedom laws modeled on the 1993 federal statute into their opposite:

This result is very different from what Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Teddy Kennedy of Massachusetts had in mind back in 1993 when they co-sponsored the original RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act]. Both senators emphasized that the original legislation was a bipartisan attempt to avoid petty church-state conflicts and defuse nettlesome issues that might mean a lot to various faith groups but have only trivial effect on government’s objectives.

Should horse-drawn Amish buggies be compelled to carry state-required warning of a slow-moving vehicle? Does a municipal law banning consumption of alcohol apply to serving wine at communion services? Did a public school ban on wearing headgear in class prohibit Jewish yarmulkes? [my emphasis]
With the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision, Greider writes:

The Roberts Court blew away the original law’s careful restraints. The justices reinterpreted the RFRA and granted First Amendment rights to the private religious views of some company owners. Some of the new laws enacted by state legislatures like Indiana’s attempt to expand things further. When Governor Mike Pence insisted Indiana’s law did not explicitly authorize discrimination against gays, he was technically correct. What he didn’t say is that the law is deliberately designed to encourage true believers to litigate and it strengthens their legal foundation for winning.

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