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Monday, June 30, 2014

Holy Hobby: Two Grim Hobby Lobby Thoughts

Today's odious decision will probably yield lots of interesting commentary from constitutional law experts. I only have two thoughts about this, and they both come from a fairly personal place.

In December I will become eligible for a U.S. citizenship, and this year has been a time of self-inquiry and internal deliberation whether to pursue it. While I think it's better to choose something for its merits, and not for the shortcomings of the alternative, I constantly find myself drawing comparisons between the Old Country and the New Country. What complicates this is that my experiences of the old Country are muddled by nostalgic harkening to a welfare-state past that never was, even in Israel. And this morning is particularly grim, because it reminds me of two things that horrify me in present-day Israel (beyond the obvious): the increasingly messianic kowtowing to Ultra-Orthodox reactionaries and the complete and total collapse of the welfare state. I would not leave any of those things behind by choosing to make the United States my permanent home.

The latter, in Israel, is a direct consequence of copying the United States. Netanyahu has pushed and advocated for fiscal policy that disenfranchises the poor, impoverishes the middle class, and sells the country wholesale to tycoons, mafiosos, or both. The free-market ideology that drives these policies, which also drove thousands of my friends to the streets in 2011, is a direct import from the United States. The deception involved in the idea of an entirely unregulated free market is infuriating, and today's decision is a case in point. In a strong economy with less inequality and stratification, in which employees have more bargaining power, even without a reasonable, progressive single-payer health policy, this horrific decision could push people to vote with their feet and not work for employers who impose their cryptofascism through denial of health benefits. But in this economy, what choice do employees have? 

But as to the former--the insidious creep of religious interests into daily civic life--while both Israel and the United States mix church and state in unsavory ways, they do so in very different ways. Most of Israel's population is secular; the government is comprised of primarily secular people. But the multi-party system means that religious parties hold an immense amount of bargaining power. This is why, for 65 years, Ultra-Orthodox men have not served in the army (we'll see how the change is effected); this is why, as we were reminded only yesterday, Israel does not offer public transit on Saturdays; and this is why outrageous acts of marginalization against women occur in an alarming frequency. Religion intrudes on a secular Israeli's life on a daily basis. 

But there are ways in which the religious creep into daily life in America is more insidious. Because here, when we can imagine variations in the gender or color of the president, one cannot even imagine a president who will calmly say he is not religious and does not attend a church. Even with a reported decline in religious identification, an astounding four-fifths of Americans still identify as religious. The atheists I meet here are angrier and more militant than anywhere else in the Western world - for good reason: they are the minority. While in Israel religious people are visibly "otherized" via their apparel or appearance, in the United States those distinctions are more difficult to draw, making public conversation about religion difficult and confusing. And yes, that means that the idea that an employer (human, corporate, you name it) would bring his or her religious beliefs into the business becomes less unthinkable and, after this morning's decision, entirely sayable.

People will be writing today about single-payer insurance, and about corporate personhood, and about overturning Citizens United, and about contraception and health, and those will all be important conversations. For me, personally, this morning is a grim reminder that rampant, soulless capitalism run amok and blind respect for freedom of religion at all costs are as unpalatable and dangerous here as they are in the Old Country.

***********

This is a rather grim farewell post from Prawfs, I concede, but my month is up. Thank you, Dan, for hosting, and to all of you, for reading and commenting. 

Posted by Hadar Aviram on June 30, 2014 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

Comments

"...and blind respect for freedom of religion at all costs...."

Yeah, right after becoming a citizen, you should work to repeal the First Amendment. Come in with a bang!

Posted by: Anonsters | Jun 30, 2014 7:36:38 PM

"...blind respect for freedom of religion at all costs are as unpalatable and dangerous here as they are in the Old Country"

It's not religious freedom; it's 'religious freedom'.
People who support Hobby Lobby are nowhere to be seen
when the religious freedom's of non-right-wing people
are trampled on.

Posted by: Barry | Jul 1, 2014 12:33:27 AM

I doubt I'll have such influence, Anonsters... :) but really, I'm not interested in taking away people's freedom of religion--insofar as it's what it was designed to be: a constitutional mechanism to prevent the oppression of a religious minority. But here, it's being used as a tool of oppression in the hands of a wealthy majority/elite. This is a complete travesty.

Posted by: Hadar Aviram | Jul 1, 2014 9:55:17 AM

"And yes, that means that the idea that an employer (human, corporate, you name it) would bring his or her religious beliefs into the business becomes less unthinkable and, after this morning's decision, entirely sayable."

You may want to travel around your adopted country and get to know its people.

A majority of Americans have religious beliefs and bringing them to work (and in other parts of their lives) is more than just thinkable or sayable, it is quite normal.

Posted by: Bart DePalma | Jul 1, 2014 11:24:25 AM

@Hadar: I think You have some errors in Your reasoning. For example, the poll You cite does not say religion is declining; it says identification with a particular religion, such Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Buddhism, is declining. A lack of identification with any one particular religion or group of religions does not equal "no religion".

Secondly, Candidates for President will tend to continue to articulate a religious belief so long as the vast majority of Voters hold religious beliefs. So, it stands to reason Atheists are not catered/appealed to by such Candidates because (1) They are an intensely small minority and (2) its hard to protect the religious freedom of Someone rejecting either the existence of a Deity or rejecting religion in general. Such concern is akin to worrying about the free speech rights of People refusing to communicate with Anyone anywhere about anything.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 1, 2014 11:40:38 AM

@Hadar: In re "oppression in the hands of a wealthy majority/elite", no, not really because the administration can easily extend the accommodation it extends to religious affiliated non-profits, providing the exact same coverage to Employees as if the Objectors never complained.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 1, 2014 11:42:40 AM

@Barry: Nobody can look at the full body of case law (Cf., Sherbert, Thomas, Lukumi, Yoder, O Centro, Boerne, etc.) and reasonably draw the conclusion You have reached.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 1, 2014 11:44:46 AM

"Nobody can look at the full body of case law (Cf., Sherbert, Thomas, Lukumi, Yoder, O Centro, Boerne, etc.) and reasonably draw the conclusion You have reached."

The Hobby Lobby opinion (or rather, the Bush v. Gore-style 'this is not a precedent except for what we want' clause) rather clearly discriminates against various religions and beliefs.

Posted by: Barry | Jul 1, 2014 5:57:09 PM

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