Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SCOTUS looks into a religious abyss. The abyss stares back at us all.

                 Corporations are an artificial legal construct designed to shield shareholders from liability. That's my understanding but not being an attorney, I may be wrong. Won't be the first time. And as usual it won't stop me from wading in and tossing out my two cents worth.

In this Hobby Lobby case there are so many issues swirling around it's hard to find a starting place or decide where to start to construct a coherent look. So, I'll just wade in.

As I mentioned above a corporation is a legal construct. It is by design separate from those who own, control and manage it. The shareholders are not responsible for its debts and the Corporation doesn't dissolve upon the deaths of shareholders. It is a shield for the owners.

Since it is designed to be separate from the owners how can Hobby Lobby and the others claim the owners religious beliefs are being infringed.? To do so will require a new definition so owners can be shielded on one hand and claim their religious beliefs are one and the same with their Corporation on the other. Is this SCOTUS willing to do this? Well they have discarded centuries of precedent and engaged in convoluted legal reasoning before.

Let's look back at the rise of the idea modern American Government is anti-christian and how it became such a loud voice full of sound and fury signifying little in the political landscape.

The unholy alliance of conservative Christians and the Republican Party dates back to Nixon's Southern Strategy. Unfortunately Nixon thought they could control the results.

In 1968 Nixon created the myth of the silent majority. The venal, manipulative psychopath played on the racial and social fears of blue collar whites as they were shell shocked watching their children reject everything they'd worked so hard for.

They saw Vietnam being fought for a draw and as WWII vets they were confused and dismayed. They saw the touchstones of their life being upset. Overt racism was being vilified. African Americans were demanding their rights. Truman had integrated the Military. Ike had sent troops into Arkansas to enforce school integration. They nodded in agreement as George Wallace barred the entrance of The University Of Alabama and shouted,"Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow and segregation forever!" These people cheered as Governor Reagan attempted to crush the rebellion of the counter culture and anti war movement.

Between the civil rights violence, the reaction by the entrenched White Southern power structure, the counter culture, music, the celebration of drugs and violent rejection of the war in Southeast Asia many were were confused and angry. And ripe for being taken in by a skilled huckster like Nixon.

The Presidential campaign of George Wallace was more overtly racist than Nixon's. Dick was more skilled at subtly leading the crowd to what he wanted while causing them to believe they arrived at their decision on their own.

Part and parcel of these disaffected were Conservative Christians who felt America was turning it's back on God. Canny snake oil salesman that he was, Nixon invited Televangelists into the tent. He invited such leading scholars like Jimmy Swaggert, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Unfortunately Nixon did not realize he was sowing the seed of the eventual destruction of the modern Republican Party.

Reagan solidified the influence of the Religious Right as he embraced their narrow world view giving lip service to their cause. All the while using them as he seldom attended church himself and exploited them for campaign cash and foot soldiers. The vicious Machiavellian political mastermind Lee Atwater guided these maneuvers leading those Christians into the Coliseum.

Something to remember is until the late Eighties, these reactionary Christians were marginalized and derided. Holy Rollers they were called. Outside of the Bible Belt their power and influence was marginalized. It was dismissed as an amusing aberration.

Eventually these Christian foot soldiers became resentful of being used and abused. Following the election of Barack Obama they mobilized. Carrying the Cross they wrapped themselves in the flag and took up the mantle of the Patriots of the Revolution. Unfortunately they had little understanding of the reasons the Colonists took up arms against the Crown.

Aided and abetted by the Right Wing media, the idea of a war on Christianity grew into a given. It seemed everything was an attack. Science in school was seen as a liberal, secular attack on the word of God. It did not matter that in a publicly funded school, Genesis has no place as a text.

Pseudo Historians tried to rework history as a false major propaganda piece to deny America was created as a Christian Theocracy.

Science is derided as lies from the pits of Hell by a member of the House Science and Technology Committee.

We now have a atmosphere where ignorance is worn as a badge of honor. Where intolerance is seen as the sacred word of God and the path to the salvation of America. It is in this arena of thought where any idea is given credence,as long as it is wrapped in scripture, that Hobby Lobby feels aggrieved.

What I find disturbing is it seems only conservative Christian thought seems to be defended constantly as being under attack. Mainstream faiths are actually derided at times as not really Christian.

Now, Hobby Lobby's objection to the contraception is that they consider IUD's and some other methods as abortion. So, not only do they claim their beliefs are under attack, their belief is in denial of science. However, the idea seems to be their ignorance is equal to and as valid as others knowledge. It is disbelief in the face of scientific proof.

The very idea that a Corporation has religious beliefs is not a new legal idea. It is however one that SCOTUS has rejected before. A Southern restaurant chain claimed that they felt it was their religious right to deny service to African Americans. That defense was rejected by The Supreme Court.

Now we have religious freedom as a defense to control what medical care can be offered to a woman. It it an employer's right to decide for the woman.

Now, as the women Justices did, one wonders what this idea will eventually encompass.

If one's religion rejects vaccines or blood transfusions, can the employer deny coverage for this? Christian Scientists reject medicine all together so can they refuse any coverage? Does an employer have the right to impose their religious views on the employee even if the employee doesn't share those beliefs?

Let's look further into this can of worms.

First off it appears that conservative Evangelical Christianity is becoming a preferred strain of a religion rife with various denominations. These range from the Unitarians on the left to the Westboro Baptist Church and their intolerant ilk on the right.

Not surprisingly the conservative media lines up in defense of the Evangelicals as they complain of persecution. Although it is hard to see how a dominant religion in a society(Christianity) can possibly claim persecution.

There is a constant barrage of examples of so-called attacks put forth on American airwaves. Right Wing radio calls this court case a lethal blow to religious liberty if sanity is allowed to win.

What is ignored is a person's religious freedom ends where my rights to believe or not begin. These sects have warped the ill informed public's view of separation of church and state as a myth. the belief we are actually a theocracy that has lost our way is a dangerous idea. It opens the door to a myriad of beliefs not subject to the rule of law simply by cloaking them in the Gospel.

Religion was once used as a justification for slavery. We have actually heard Republican office holders say slavery wasn't that bad due to it being in the Bible. It was used as a basis for racial purity laws and statutes to prevent mixed marriages. Religion in the hands of a zealot can be a terrible weapon.

If an employer believes, due to their firmly held religious beliefs, that unmarried women should not have access to birth control since they should be chaste, would that be acceptable? Perhaps, scriptural hatred of LBGT(which seems to be rampant) is an excuse for not hiring them or to refuse HIV/Aids treatment? And would such treatment be allowed to straight employees?

Perhaps since men are the head of the household in the Scriptures women should not receive any health coverage since their husband should supply it? Could a company refuse to hire women because they should be at home tending the hearth according to their beliefs?

If your interpretation of the Word says that blacks are inferior and the races should be kept separate could you refuse to hire or serve African Americans? Could you refuse to deal with LBGT customers or customers living together without benefit of marriage?

The use of faith to exempt secular, for profit Corporations from the rule of law is an invitation to chaos. It would put the courts and legislatures in the business of deciding what is a reasonable religious belief. Which in itself is unconstitutional.So we would see a hands off approach, which is the GOP/Tea party stance today anyway. They accept any claim of religious discrimination, no matter how far fetched as legitimate.

The legal idea of incorporation cannot allow the shareholders to reach out to claim a religious corporate identity and remain separate from the corporation for liability.

This case is more than contraception. It is,can a corporation push it's beliefs on it's employees and flout laws others in the business world must adhere to. Can religion be used to ignore law across the board. Religious objection can be raised and claimed on nearly any law by simple contorted interpenetration of scripture. And there are many churches out there adept at the linguistic, intellectual and logical contortions needed.

SCOTUS has to uphold the traditional legal definition of a corporation. Religious exemption from almost any law opens a road to hell paved with bad intentions. It will be a road to perdition paved with gleeful flouting of the rule of law and substituting religious dogma of all stripes as the law of the land. That can not happen. It is spitting in the face of those who labored to create a nation free of religious domination they saw in Europe.

It would embolden the right and ease the push to theocracy and overturning American traditions of religious diversity. A coup by any other name....

God help us all and save us from the man who is sure he is righteous.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cosmos. Knowledge vilified.

               Cosmos. I watched and marveled at it's first incarnation led by Carl Sagan. He examined and explained the Universe in ways the average could grasp. He brought his inherent sense of awe to the viewers. A generation of scientists were inspired by Cosmos. The show became an icon of PBS and science programming in general.

I was glad to see it's return hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, today's Sagan. He is a witty, erudite spokesman for the role of science in modern life. Tyson, like Sagan, makes science approachable and relevant. He shares his awe and wonder at the scope and beauty of the Universe and loves explaining it in a way that can spread that wonder. Neil is also an outspoken critic of forcing religion into science education. This makes him a reliable target for the wrath of Extreme Christians and science deniers.

The anti-intellectual strain of thought that has been evident in America since the beginning is at historic levels today. Theirs is a uniquely American view that their ignorance is equal to and as valid as other's knowledge Science itself is seen as having a Liberal and anti-Christian bias. It is attacked as an assault on religion. As Neil deGrasse Tyson has said, facts don't care if you believe in them .

So, I was dismayed but not surprised by the level of vitriolic attacks on Cosmos by the Religious Right. It was right on cue.

This is seen as central to the fights concerning Creationism as a legitimate part of science education anyone who actually supports facts as truth is demeaned as persecuting Christians and denying religious freedom.

Following the broadcast of Cosmos the social media universe lit up with attacks on Tyson, the show, the science and decrying it as an organized persecution and attack on Christianity.  My response was, What the actual fuck?

The mainstream denominations have no problem with science. Many scientists are people of faith. They do not react in outrage when Neil  deGrasse Tyson says the Bible is not a scientific text. Mainstream religion does not use Genesis as the basis for how the Universe works. They treat it as allegorical not literal. To believe in science is not an attack on faith. Ask a Catholic. Or a Vatican spokesman on the papal stance on science.

You can get a good science education at a Catholic school like Notre Dame or any other Catholic University. There is a tradition of Catholic priest/scientists making discoveries that expanded modern scientific knowledge. So, I would postulate science and religion is not automatically exclusive of each other.

However today in America we have an atmosphere that seems to elevate willful ignorance to a badge of honor to be worn proudly.

Climate change is denied. When it is accepted by the right they claim God will save us from catastrophic events. Or, it's punishment. Evolution is rejected as an attack on religious freedom. How dare we expect factual scientific teaching in PUBLIC schools?  How dare Fox air such a blatant attack on Christianity?

When the original cosmos aired there were no massive complaints that it was a violation of freedom of religion. It was not derided as a liberal, secular, atheistic war on the basic tenants of the Christian faith. People of reason saw it as an excellent example of compelling science programming. It made science accessible. Amazing the difference a couple decades makes.

Perhaps I am a cynic. It does seem that this new war on Christianity is being used by assorted conservative groups and Evangelicals as a fundraising tool. Do they believe this is a war or simply a way to dupe the faithful into opening their wallet? They use radio, television and the internet to demonize science as lies from the pits of Hell. These very platforms prove science works as predicted. It proves the scientific method works and is a correct look at the universe.

I have a suggestion to those who attack Cosmos as a planned attack on your your faith. Don't fucking watch it. Do not organize boycotts or other attempts to deny more the joy of watching a well done science program on American, commercial television. That happening is in itself a miracle.