By Eleanor Levie
BCWAC Partner, National Council of Jewish Women
The decision just handed down by the Supreme Court has given me a big case of Hobby Lobby nerves. My one-time sewing and crafting Hobby has long been my career, and as a volunteer I Lobby for reproductive and religious freedoms. My reputation and my source of income comes out of the quilt books I have authored and produced, most of which were – or are – carried at Hobby Lobby. I would assume that they choose merchandise because of the quality of the content. That they hire and retain staff because of a respect for their ability to manage their lives as well as their jobs. Given their 2013 sales of $3.3 billion, they are obviously able to distinguish between smart corporate strategy and deeply personal decisions. Yet they sued and fought all the way to the Supreme Court to impose their personal religious beliefs on their employees. Because of their medically inaccurate views of how IUDs and emergency contraceptives (EC) work, they will continue to place financial burdens on the shoulders of those who wish to make their own family planning decisions. (As an aside, another unfathomable disconnect is that documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012 – three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit – reveal that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in pharma companies that produce ECs, IUDs, and even drugs commonly used in abortions.)
IUDs and ECs are not tantamount to abortion. When life begins is not a rule the Religious Right gets to define for all us Americans. Women have long fought for their right to safe, accessible, affordable reproductive health care free from interference from legislators, and now we have to worry about employers. And not religious institutions, but large, for-profit corporations. It’s a sad indication of erosion for our moral, constitutional, and religious rights. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent, “Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution’s] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.” She went on to ask, “Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…”
As progressive Jews, we’ll have to redouble our efforts to strengthen the wall of separation between religion and state.
We’ll need to vote with a clear sense of science and conscience and record when it comes to the Senate – the body of government that advises and consents to the President’s nominations to the Supreme Court, as well as to the lower federal courts that make most of the decisions that affect our lives.
As we approach Independence Day, let’s remember that reproductive rights and religious freedom are closely bound in this democracy of, by, and for the people – not the corporations.
This article was originally published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice on Monday, June 30, 2014.