05 September 2014

Religious Exemption Gets A New Lease

Hobby Lobby
The Hobby Lobby Decision made by the US Supreme Court may be a big setback for women’s rights and for those lobbying for reproductive health rights, but it is a big ammunition for anti-gay advocates.

The landmark decision allowed closely held for-profit corporations to be exempted from a law that its owners religiously object to if there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law's interest. In this case a 5-4 majority held that the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) duly protects closely held corporations from being required to provide their employees (through employer financed health insurance) certain types of birth control.

For such companies, the court directly struck down the contraceptive mandate, a regulation adopted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), requiring employers to cover certain contraceptives for their female employees.

The court said that the mandate was not the ‘least restrictive’ way to ensure access to contraceptive care, noting that a less restrictive alternative is already being provided for religious non-profits. The ruling could have widespread impact, allowing companies to be religiously exempt from federal laws, but more importantly, the decision will add to the flurry of activities by hundreds of organizations seeking to shut down laws and initiatives that promote lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lifestyle.

Even if the initial decision was confined to the contraceptive mandate, the ruling is seen to have consequences extending far beyond contraception. One does not have to look far to find how the decision can be used and operationalized to weed out intolerant LGBTs who want to undermine religious organizations and pressure them to give them special treatment.

On 10 July 2014, Jayce, a Christian university in Oregon requested a religious exemption to the Title IX regulations regarding housing, restrooms and athletics as they apply to transgender students. PQ Monthly reports that the Department of Education closed the student’s legal complaint, thereby granting the university a religious exemption.

Also, more than 100 religious leaders sent a letter to President Obama asking him to “respect this vital element of religious freedom” by allowing religiously affiliated groups to ignore the LGBT non-discrimination order the president recently announced he would sign for companies that partner with the federal government. Currently, federal law and Texas law does not protect LGBT persons from discrimination in the workplace. Federal and state law does protect persons based on race, sex, color, religion, national origin and other categories.

From now on, there will be no shortage of legal claims and arguments as religious activists try to carve out a land in which they will be exempt from allowing LGBT agenda to impose their lifestyle on those who doesn’t want it. Given that gays like to advocate "penetration from behind" the law to impose their agenda, the irony has not gone unnoticed.