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3rd Shift

3rd Shift – Corporations are Still Not People… Hobby Lobby Reaps the Whirlwind…



By Chad Nance

“Christians are supposed to be the most forgiving people on the face of the Earth.”
– Jimmy Swaggart

“That’s part of American greatness, is discrimination. Yes, sir. Inequality, I think, breeds freedom and gives a man opportunity.”
– Lester Maddox

“Honest businessmen should be protected from the unscrupulous consumer.”
– Lester Maddox


Around 10am on a hot, muggy morning here at the ranch I heard an awful sound that ripped through the sky live a massive laser- sizzling the atmosphere around it and leaving the dull smell of cordite in the air. That sound was the collective scream of millions of American women and those who support ​women’s​ right to make their own reproductive decisions. Seconds later another sound came tumbling across the sky​,​ obliterating all that got in its way. That low frequency rumble ​ was​ accompanied by the mechanical screech of a cash machine going “Ka-ching!” as the Supreme Court guaranteed that Hobby Lobby would soon be ass deep in some of that sweet Chick-F ​il​-​A, evangelical tinted green cash.

the greens

the greens

In a stunning display of ingenuity and swagger ​, the Greens, a Southern Baptist family ​who​ own the Hobby Lobby craft stores chain, and the Hahn family, Mennonite ​s who own the Conestoga Wood Specialties cabinet-making business​,​ managed to help push the door in a little farther on worker’s rights in America, bolster the legal concept that corporations are people, and pull the kind of religious ​-​based swindle that Jim and Tammy Faye Baker or Mike Huckabee would recognize. Fleece the sheep, O Lord, and leave nothing upon the ground for mine enemies to subsist on.

The culture wars are once more ablaze with the ​T​witter chatter, ​F​acebook debates, and news​-​site flame-offs where the combatants battle mightily to see who can write the most stunningly ignorant statement in 140 characters or less, including hash-tags. These battles that have been raging since the 1950’s continue to plague us in the 21st Century as the Baby Boom generation maintains its talon-like grip on American politics and culture. What some folks have learned is that these conflicts turn normally reasonable people into red-faced drooling imbeciles. When a person reaches the final stages of this affliction they can be found hunched over their keyboards ​,​ surfing through ​F​acebook pages trying to find that perfect meme that just says it all. Meanwhile their hair is falling out in clumps and they can barely hold their heads up because of all of the hate they are now storing inside of them. That is when people like the Cathy’s over a ​t​ Chick-F​il​-A, ’ol Uncle Phil down in Louisiana, Trump, and now the Green family have discovered that the human animal is at its most weak and vulnerable… then they pounce like lions clawing for all of that sweet cash ​,​ with dollar signs for eyes.

On the other side of this increasingly asinine struggle, every single Democratic female candidate in the United States of America, every reproductive rights advocacy group, every everybody with the remote claim to having a dog in this fight considered sending out a fund-raising email blast begging for cash so that they could continue to fight the good fight and push back against regressive encroachment of these drooling swine… and many of them will hit “send” on those emails ​so they can ​keep the money that comes pouring into their Pay Pal accounts from frustrated people who want to feel like, if only for a moment, that they are getting back at their enemies for discounting the rights of working women in favor of the narrower rights of one family that has become wealthy on the backs of that very labor.

Needless to say Burwell V. Hobby Lobby is a complex and shifting reality with more moving parts and possible combinations than a Rubik’s cube. There are a few clear take-a-ways. This case wasn’t about religious freedom. It wasn’t about abortion, it wasn’t even fundamentally about human rights. Hobby Lobby is yet another part of the “Corporations are People” mosaic that now seems to imply that corporations can have ​,​ and one assumes BE​,​ a religion. The entire drama is about corporate power, greed, and avarice…. Period.

cash machine

cash machine

The Green family are not saints and don’t exactly run Hobby Lobby by recognizably Christian values across the board. Mother Jones reported that documents ​filed with​ the Department of Labor and dated December 2012 (which is three months after the Green’s filed the lawsuit) show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby brags about how they match employee contributions.

Hobby Lobby also sells a butt-load of stuff that is manufactured in China where forced abortions and slave labor are the norm and human rights exists more as a theory than any concrete reality. This isn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy, Sunday School ​attending Greens that their own PR campaign, legal case website, and media appearances would make ​them ​appear. In fact, when the Greens, who give heavily to Republicans, chose this one moment in time to stand up for their “religious rights” they chose to do so over Obamacare which they oppose on ideological grounds.

The entire episode, of course, was a sure fire way to build yourself a solid, fanatically loyal customer base. Sadly, Evangelical Christians have been being taken advantage of like this for decades. From the turn of the 20th Century until the 1940’s American Christianity provided the backbone for progressive social and economic reforms that included an end to child labor, the 40 hour work week, ​and ​immigration reforms. On the flip side they also gave us prohibition. According to the modern myth pushed by shucksters like Jerry Falwell, evangelicals were typically apolitical until they ​ were​ so morally outraged by Roe v. Wade that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it. ​

But that is absurd.​ ​ It wasn’t until six years after Roe​,​ in 1979​,​ that evangelical leaders were pushed by conservative activist Paul Weyrich to focus their ire on abortion. This was not for moral reasons, but was intended as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. It worked to the extreme as there are still evangelical voters today who vote against their own economic and civil liberties self interests just because they have been sold the line of crap that voting for anyone but Republicans is the spiritual equivalent of bashing embryos against concrete blocks. Why did they need an issue like abortion? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s true goal- protecting segregated schools.

Evangelicals long considered abortion a Catholic issue if they considered it at all. Ironically they didn’t get on board with Catholic opposition to the death penalty and anti-war stances which are part of the Catholic doctrine for consistency of life. Opposition to the death penalty didn’t take hold with the “Moral Majority”- didn’t suit their purposes and there is nothing the old segregationist like Falwell and his ilk enjoyed more than a good hanging.

cecco del caravaggio - christ expulses money changers

cecco del caravaggio – christ expulses money changers

As Randal Balmer reported in Politico Magazine, in 1968 a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, ​Christians ​refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976. Of course in those election cycles Republicans were running Nixon and Ford respectively and no one took Jimmy Carter all that seriously. By the 1980 Presidential race ​,​ the Republicans were in dire need of a solid, reliable voting block that could be counted on and taken for granted like the Democrats use African Americans.

Hiding behind Americanized Christianity has long been the purview of scoundrels, bigots, and big money. From slavery to Jim Crow to the lack of equal pay for women ​ to​ now in the 21st Century with corporate personhood and reactionary discrimination, Christians and their values have been used and abused by con-men and hucksters of all kinds. Southern Baptists originally applauded the Roe v. Wade decision as an appropriate articulation of the division between church and state, between personal morality and state regulation of individual behavior. “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision,” wrote W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press. ​​

​Those in-the-know with Southern Baptists ​might argue that those statements were made in their “liberal phase” before the change of course to Conservative, “traditional” values ushered in by the likes of the Judge (Paul Pressler) and Paige Patterson. However, th e Greens are ​claiming to be devout ​Southern Baptists​ now,​ and​ yet​ don’t have a problem paying into a fund that invests in companies that make a profit from contraception and abortion procedures, and they don’t mind doing business with world-class population control masters and human slavers. Their sudden interest in contraception/abortion which happens to coincide with the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act more than vaguely resembles the Evangelical community’s sudden change of heart on reproductive rights when the need arose to replace a peanut farmer with an actor- who ​ incidentally​ was pro-abortion rights for most of his own political career.

The decision was 5-4 and the majority’s final version was reportedly a compromise to hold the voting block together. Word is that Justice Scalia had originally pushed for the crafting of a decision that awarded far more rights and religious exemptions to corporations larger than the privately owned businesses involved in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Writing the dissent ​,​ Justice Ginsburg hammered the nail directly:

“Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community.”

Again the Supreme Court has found itself arguing over whether or not a corporation can be seen as a human being with all applicable rights and privileges- or are they government sanctioned entities organized around the principle of making money in the society at large and therefore subject to rule and regulation by a freely elected government. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby appears to be a continuation of “Citizens United” ​,​ ascribing the rights to a corporation that we traditionally and rationally would give to an individual human being.



“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[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.” Wrote Justice Ginsburg.

How about a corporations political and religious objections to the minimum wage? Over-time laws? OSHA regulations and anything else a corporation decides runs counter to deeply held convictions? The door has been opened on some real nonsense that could, if nothing else, allow abuses to go on while court cases crawl through the system. Like most things the supreme court does these days- the only people who benefit are their fellow lawyers.

The dissent also addressed another legal and political nightmare. What happens when a company​ ​ owned by Muslims wants to treat their employees according to Sharia Law? Most types of discrimination for any reason from race to homosexuality have traditionally been re-enforced by religious doctrine. Both slavery and the systematic segregation and oppression of African Americans were officially sanctioned by southern based Christian denominations. ​ Ginsburg is obviously concerned by this as well, stating​ “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.”

In the final decision, however, Justice Alito insisted that their ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners. While that might feel iron clad, anyone who has had personal experience with lawyers know ​s​ that like a ​r​at, they can find their way into any hole no matter what size, how dirty it is, or how long it takes.

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.” Justice Ginsburg wrote…. The lady is right. The legal road ahead looks weird and there is no doubt that like a toddler, corporations will be pushing on the legal edges of personhood trying to see just how much t ​h​ey will be allowed to get away with.

Meanwhile Hobby Lobbys have made it rain for interest groups on both sides of the reproductive rights debate and, no doubt, for themselves. That ​’s​ what it’s all about anyway isn’t it? Who gets to hold the money? Welcome to the new normal​,​ where corporations are people, private businesses can be religions, and even the soul is for sale…. KaChing!

​Can I get an Amen?​

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