After reading through some of the recaps of the oral arguments at SCOTUS yesterday in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, it appears that some of the justices, and perhaps a majority, are willing to allow private religious objections to trump the laws, regulations, and ordinances enacted by local, state, and federal governments. Just so that no one is surprised later, I thought I’d lay out some of my strongly held religious beliefs now.
I have a strong religious objection to the death penalty, yet for the fifth time in five months, my state of Missouri has spent my tax dollars to carry it out. At the foundation of the Christian church — the Lutheran branch of which I am pleased to serve as a pastor — is the story of the execution of Jesus at the hands of the state and his resurrection three days later, through which God says “No” to the death-dealing forces of the world. My tax dollars are spent at the state and federal level to support exactly this system of vengeance, not justice, which all too often is administered in a way that is irregular at best and occasionally flat out wrong at worst.
I also have a strong religious objection to torture, yet my state and federal government continue to spend millions of tax dollars on that form of torture known as “solitary confinement,” and tens or hundreds or thousands of millions on “enhanced interrogations” and the hiding thereof from the oversight of the courts. Indeed, I have strong religious objections to NOT spending my tax dollars to bring the perpetrators and enablers of torture to justice.
I have strong — very strong — religious objections to the unequal treatment of people before the law, yet the Department of Justice seems bent on spending my tax dollars and the tax dollars of similarly-minded folks by the millions to chase the poor and powerless into prison while giving the wealthy and powerful sternly worded letters and a good talking-to. In the financial fraud around the housing market, homeowners are hounded and unscrupulous mortgage dealers are allowed to roam free. During the recent Lesser Depression, homeowners pushed underwater by the practices of their banks have suffered greatly (“We’re sorry, but your equity has disappeared because the property values have fallen so much because we crashed the economy”), yet the SEC and DOJ use my tax dollars to go to great extremes to settle civil litigation with the the banks in such a toothless fashion that the board of JPMorgan Chase gave Jamie Dimon a 74% raise after guiding them through with only a slap on the corporate wrist. And you don’t want to know how strongly I object on religious grounds to the failure of the DOJ to pursue criminal rather than civil penalties . . .
I have viscerally strong religious objections to sexual abuse, yet the military paid for with my tax dollars continues to turn a blind eye to the climate in the military that leads thousands of those in the ranks to not report the harassment, abuse, and rapes they have suffered at the hands of their colleagues and commanders, and that allows far too many of those against whom reports of abuse were filed to avoid accountability. Similarly, I have strong religious objections to NOT spending my tax dollars to do this on every US military base and port and outpost.
I have extremely strong religious objections using my tax dollars to administer the public law in secret, with secret judicial proceedings, secret decisions, and secret sentences.
I have powerfully strong religious objections to using my tax dollars to carry out executive decisions made on the basis of secret evidence to violate the sovereign territory of other nations in order to remotely execute those with whom they disagree, without allowing the accused an opportunity to know the accusations against them, to state their case, to respond to the allegations, or even to publicly confront their accuser. I especially object when such executions are carried out against an anonymous targets based on undefined notions of “suspicion” and “association.”
I have seriously strong religious objections to using my local, state, and federal taxes to provide a public education to my child and the children of my neighbors that is incomplete (such as abstinence-only sex education), or based on disproven science, pseudo-conflicts, and unproven beliefs. The earth is round, old, and getting warmer by the day because of human activity. There is no serious scientific objection to these concepts, and I strongly object on religious grounds to using my tax dollars to teach otherwise.
I have painfully strong religious objections to using my tax dollars to support a system of medical care that privileges those with money at the expense of those without, of a system that privileges people based on who their employer is or is not, and of a system that is designed to put money into the hands of insurers who profit by saying “no” to providing care rather than into the hands of those who would use that money to actually provide care. I have especially painfully strong religious objections to politicians playing doctor as they put barriers in the way of women who seek, with their doctor’s advice and support, legal medical procedures.
I have incredibly strong religious objections to using my tax dollars to prohibit recognition of and support for the lifelong, monogamous, and complete binding commitments made by two people of the same gender, in contrast to the recognition given to two people of different genders who make similar commitments.
I have wildly strong religious objections to using my tax dollars to allow employers to have a financial veto over — or even a say in — the kind of medical care an employee can have, or to allow insurance company executives and politicians to have a veto over the medical treatments a doctor and patient might decide are in the patient’s best interest.
I have passionately strong religious objections to using my tax dollars to subsidize the energy extraction industry that poisons the air we breathe, fouls the water we drink, and destabilizes the ground on which we build our communities, all while their efforts heat and heat and heat our planet.
And I have extremely, seriously, powerfully, incredibly, viscerally, wildly, passionately strong religious objections to using my tax dollars to set up and sustain a system that carves out religious exemptions for the strongly held personal beliefs of some and not the strongly held personal beliefs of others, in such a way that the beliefs of some impose themselves on the beliefs of others.
Judging from the questioning at the Supreme Court yesterday, the conservative SCOTUS justices have no such concerns. That’s understandable, I suppose. They have a highly insulated position which compensates them well enough that they can live in comfort. They do not live in fear that they might be laid off, that a subordinate might shove them aside and take their job, or that their company might be downsized, moved, or sold. They do not worry about being forced to retire when they would like to continue working. A SCOTUS justice lives in a world where the only people whose beliefs truly matter are the other eight justices with whom he or she shares the bench. They live in a world in which they make the rules — for themselves, their workplace, and for the nation. To go by their comments yesterday from the bench, some of them do not appear to remember what life is like for the rest of us.
Once upon a time, slavery was defended by some on religious grounds. Is SCOTUS ready to sanction the return to slavery, because some have religious beliefs that call for it?
photo h/t to swanksalot and used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.