We Don’t Call ‘Em American Taliban for Nothing

It strikes me that the right-wing Christianists celebrating the Hobby Lobby decision are an unimaginative crew. This might be expected of people who combine dogmatic literalism with a myopic inability to perceive the difference between their own culturally induced bigotries and God. The degree to which they are shooting themselves in the foot is revealed in a New Yorker commentary by Steve Coll, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York.

Tehrik-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, is a closely held, profit-making enterprise organized on religious principles. One of its principles, announced as public policy in July, 2012, is that children should not be inoculated against polio, because the vaccines violate God’s law. So sincere are the Taliban’s religious beliefs that its followers have assassinated scores of public-health workers who have attempted to administer polio vaccines in areas under Taliban control or influence. …

… If the Pakistani Taliban, aided by clever lawyers, organized a closely held American corporation, and professed to run it on religious principles, might its employees be deprived of insurance coverage to inoculate their children against polio? And would the Supreme Court, by the five-to-four decision issued on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell, endorse such a move?

Coll acknowledges that before this could happen the Taliban would have to jump through some challenging hoops, such as their status in the U.S. as a terrorist organization. And the part about assassinating people would touch on other areas of law, unrelated to the Affordable Care Act, that might get them into trouble even in “murder at will” states like Florida. However, maybe if they came out for open carry … well, that’s another argument.

Here’s the meat of Coll’s argument:

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court’s conservative majority, sought to evade such thought exercises by predicting, without evidence, that there will not be “a flood of religious objections regarding a wide variety of medical procedures and drugs, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions.”

Why not? Is it because the justices do not intend to extend their reasoning to companies that hold religious views less proximate to their own Christian beliefs? Or because the judges believe that they can enforce what they imagine to be a rational or permissible resistance to reproductive rights for women, while blocking what they might see as irrational resistance to transfusions and vaccines?

In other words, as Dahlia Lithwick argued the other day, either the justices intend to show favoritism to “mainstream” (in their minds) Christianity, denying other religions the same privileges, or they think women’s reproductive health is a less serious medical issue than, for example, blood transfusions. There really is no other way to interpret Alito’s argument.

The Right argues that these medical procedures would not be blocked, because the employees could still obtain them and pay for them out of their own pockets. But here in Real World Land, the cost of such things could be out of reach, especially for employees making minimum wage. Add several children, and you might as well tell the employees they can buy a gold-plated yacht while they’re at it. Also, it’s not just the Taliban with issues about vaccines, is it?

And here’s the central issue:

Perhaps the Supreme Court’s majority cannot fully imagine that religiously motivated litigants—Muslim, Christian Scientist, Hindu, or other—as qualified and as American as the Hobby Lobby owners might ultimately use Monday’s ruling to enforce beliefs far outside of the decades-long campaign of Christian evangelicals and Catholics to limit the reproductive rights of women. If so, that is another failure of their reasoning, one that exposes what really seems to have gone on in this decision: four longtime adherents to the deeply rooted conservative movement to limit or ban abortion in the United States, joined by a fifth willing to defer to them, saw in the Hobby case an opportunity to advance their cause incrementally, and they reasoned to achieve that end—not, as their opinion claims, to construct a sustainable framework of religious resistance to public-health laws.

The Right is perpetually screaming that we are about to be placed under sharia law. Sharia law, as I understand it, is interpreted many different ways, and I don’t want to join into demonizing it here. But the Right doesn’t seem to appreciate that the Hobby Lobby decision potentially opens the door to exactly this — a company with Muslim owners could potentially enforce its Islamic views on the employees.

The pre-Hobby Lobby understanding of separation of church and state would have prevented sharia law from being involuntarily applied to non-Muslims in the U.S. That’s not quite so clear now. It seems to me that the only way the HL decision wouldn’t open the door to all kinds of religious impositions on employees is if the courts set themselves up as arbiters of what religious beliefs are legitimate and which not, First Amendment be damned.

I like this bit:

Because campaigners against reproductive rights have successfully mainstreamed their views within institutions like the Supreme Court, those views no longer seem radical even to many of their opponents. The Taliban have not similarly legitimized their philosophy because they are so indiscriminately violent and repressive, among other reasons. (Some religiously motivated radicals have assassinated abortion providers in the United States, but the gunmen are not commonly referred to here as terrorists.)

I argue from time to time that the only difference between our domestic right-wing extremists — and not just the religious ones — and Islamic terrorists is in degree, not in kind. Of course people who bomb abortion clinics or assassinate doctors — or even threaten to assassinate doctors — are terrorists. Here’s the dictionary definition of “terrorism”:

the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal
the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

So, yes, many abortion clinic “protesters” are terrorists. But we can’t call them terrorists because their opinions have been “mainstreamed.” A group doing exactly the same thing to banks that the Fetus People do to abortion clinics would be called terrorists. No question. So clinic protesters are allowed to get away with terrorism because some courts, and much of the public, sympathize with their cause, not because they aren’t actually terrorists.

Bottom line, extremist right-wing dogmatic Christians get a pass, because they are “mainstream.” I suspect Islamic extremism got its first footholds in the Middle East the same way.

17 thoughts on “We Don’t Call ‘Em American Taliban for Nothing

  1. So, on top of IOKIYR, we now can add, “IOKIYC” – It’s OK If You’re Christian.”

    I’d love to see what an idiot like “Parti”-Sam Alito (who consistently makes his decisions depending on what will piss-off the liberals the most – something even Scalia doesn’t always do – or at least didn’t) will do when “Ahmed’s House of Halal Kebob’s, Inc.” wants it’s employees following Halal diets, strict Muslim sexual and health practices, and demands to discipline his employees via Sharia Law, wherever that applies. And NO contraceptive coverage of any kind.

    As I said the other day, with this decision, the Five Fascists have badly and completely unnecessarily split the baby, and in the process, opened up a huge can of sick worms.

  2. Bottom line, extremist right-wing dogmatic Christians get a pass, because they are “mainstream.”

    Indeed, they are found amongst our coworkers, neighbors, and in-laws and cousins we sit down with at Thanksgiving dinner.

    But they are far from the majority, and I think in the end that will change everything. I wonder, is there a Hobby Lobby boycott? It is possible the corporation could be driven into bankruptcy in the next few years? It’s a legitimate price to pay for being horrible in capitalist (not democratic; not anymore) America.

    • I’m seeing calls to boycott Hobby Lobby all over social media. There isn’t one close to me, and I can’t imagine what I’d buy in one, anyway. Assuming most of their customers are women, though, I doubt the publicity is going to help them any.

  3. Think it would raise a few eyebrows if Catholic employers of tightly held companies demanded religious exemption from immigration laws in order to follow their faiths beliefs?—-In January 2003, the U.S. Catholic Bishops released a pastoral letter on migration entitled, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” In their letter, the Bishops stressed that, “[w]hen persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.” No. 35. The Bishops made clear that the “[m]ore powerful economic nations…ave a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.” No. 36.

  4. There is not doubt in my mind, and many, that the RR would institute a type of Sharia law in this country, if given half a chance. And as you say, Maha, they are doing so incrementally. I’m with you that it’s a difference of degree, not kind, when comparing the RR and the Taliban. The RR uses as their excuse oftentimes the Old Testament, which ain’t too different from radical Muslim teachings. Strict dietary and conduct codes, very misogynistic, and vehemently anti-gay. They seem to forget that there’s another part to their book, called the New Testament. You know, the one with Jesus in it and all that talk about love and peace and forgiving people. That’s the real difficult part, some would even say a miracle, to transcend your personal bigotry and personality, societal foibles, and love and forgive people. Even if you’re the only one.

  5. buckyblue,
    I agree with everything you wrote above, except where you mention our RR wingers following “strict dietary” codes in the Old Testament.

    Where in Leviticus, is “Super-size that order” mentioned?
    I musta missed it! 😉

  6. Nice post – I would only add something that I know Maha already understands because she posted about it in the past. You should not go looking for consistency among the RR. They are about tribalism pure and simple.

    Hobby Lobby does create a dilemma for future courts as you lay out, but American courts are often rationalizing, rather than rationale -ie, find a resolution and then work backward from there (like what Alito did in Hobby Lobby). So for the reasons you state above, and others, courts will do their best to distinguish HL from other religious objectors cases.

    The article you link to raises a great point, though, why is HL different. Because it’s Christian or because it’s birth control? A question the erstwhile Supremes would like to avoid.

    Also, as a long time reader and seldom commentator, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that your blog is one of the best I’ve found. Your approach to issues is well-reasoned, insightful, oftentimes witty and always enjoyable.

  7. I already boycotted them last year when the pressed the case regardless of the outcome. This of course is all about controlling women, by controlling their ability to live their lives without the confines of someone else’s doctrine.
    The RR complains about being persecuted but in fact they have been persecuting women since they banded their tribe together. I am willing to let them believe their way but they do not hold to that type of tolerance themselves.
    I often refer my friends to this wonderfully done blog! Thanks for the continued effort!

  8. Yeah, I vowed about a year ago never to set foot in a Hobby Lobby again, and I will keep that vow. (I’m a knitter, so I sometimes find myself wandering around stores you’d never think to find me in. The nearest place for me to buy knitting supplies unfortunately is a HL.) Even prior to the lawsuit, their smug attitude of “We’re CLOSED on Sunday, you heathen slut!” made me try to avoid them.

  9. I think of Terry’s law where the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional because Congress can’t make laws that are intended to benefit just one particular person or entity in one particular instance. By the same token how can the court exempt a select few from compliance with the law and claim that the ruling only applies for one specific instance? . According to the IRS closely held means controlling interest is held by five or less people, and even at that they have to be considered as one unit in all aspects of decision making.
    There’s no doubt in my mind that the HH ruling was made specifically to benefit the Christian right and their political agenda. There is an obvious bias in the Court. And I see it as a pyric victory for religious freedom in America.

  10. Oh, That HH should be HL.. For some reason I get Hobby Lobby confused with Holly Hobby.. I think Holly Hobby was a doll name or doll themed set of products marketed to little to girls back in the late 80’s or early 90’s. I remember my daughter was into My little Pony stuff when she was a child.

    • Oh, my goodness, I remember Holly Hobby and My Little Pony. There was also a rainbow pony that as I recall was a white stuffed horse doll with rainbow colored main and tail. And there was Strawberry Shortcake, which was a doll with pink clothes. Those were my daughter’s (b. 1980, on this day, in fact) favorites.

  11. Gulag- yes, they pick and choose the Levitical laws they want to follow. You’re supposed to get stoned (and not in a good way) for eating shellfish and wearing clothes with mixed cloth. Not even sure why that was a bad thing back in the day. We had a HL open up about a mile away not two months ago. Haven’t set foot in there since, don’t plan on doing it now. When I was growing up in the Evangelical world, the rules were to keep you pure for Jesus. As the saying went, ‘don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls that do’. But there wasn’t an idea of pushing your rules onto someone else if they hadn’t already found the loving grace for Jesus. These guys now want to tell everyone how to live their life, regardless.

  12. buckyblue,
    They’re baptized buttinsky’s bent on bringing everyone to Jesus’ feet, or stomping on their necks if they don’t want to.

    There’s a reason people left Europe for the colonies in the 17th and 18 Centuries – religious intolerance and religious wars.

    And that was still a major reason people left Europe and other places for America after the country was formed.

    The purported “Christians” don’t care about any history that’s not in the Bible, and hence, don’t learn anything from history.

    The problem with that, is that they want to doom the rest of us to relive those parts of history.

  13. They just recently built a Hobby Lobby here. I have not gone near the store and tell all my friends not to shop there. I also agree with Joan McCarter who wrote today: “Anyway, it might be about time for America’s Lysistrata moment. If it ended the Peloponnesian War maybe it can end the War on Women.”

  14. There isn’t anything stocked at HL you can’t find online.

    A while back I was trying to explain to a Morman at work – being a member of a church is like joining a club. The club has some common interest, bylaws, rules, officers, maybe elections. The thing is the club generally ‘gets’ that whatever they set out to do affects the members (who can quit if they don’t like it) and that’s it.

    If the Elks Club passed a ruling that told the Masons what to do – it wouldn’t get very far. Not with the Masons. The Moose Lodge doesn’t try to tell the Shriners what to do. You get the idea. In my liberal world, the same is true for religions. I have seldom any quarrel with anything you want to ‘believe’.. or ritual(s) you want to observe. Heaven, hell, salvation, damnation.. whatever makes you happy until you try to tell me what I must do or can’t do.

    The Mormon never got it. The others who were listening, did. The topic under discussion was the efforts of the LDS church who financed Prop 8 to ban same-sex marriage in CA. My point was that the LDS could ban it in their church, but butt out of everybody elses business OR (and this is what has the Mormon worried) expect that there would be a backlash and boycott of Mormon businesses if they want to finance incursions into the secular world. This is a sore spot and weakness – they like their money and they don’t like organized efforts to boycott businesses who want to impose their religious stamp on everyone in reach.

  15. It seems to me that the Taliban have actually diluted themselves that Islam is real. The typical domestic bagger couldn’t care less about Christ, just another prop to be exploited, no different than the flag. I’m in for fighting the flag waivers but Christ can fight for himself!

    4th of July my favorite excuse to turn up the music. Not everyone that plays with fireworks is an asshole. But just about every asshole plays with fireworks!

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