The news is abuzz with the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Yesterday’s opinion is generating the immediate and untempered 140-character outrage by the conditioned public response of needing to reply to each and every blip in our seven-second sound bite, 24-hour news day. But there is far more to this story, and it is not about the separation of church and state, but something far more pernicious.
If we look at a series of recent Supreme Court opinions, we find that the Roberts Court has been fairly unfriendly to people of color, the poor, and the marginalized. Even when they ruled favorably on lesbian and gay couples regarding marriage rights, they did not go nearly as far as the Court has done in the past for other groups; the weight of constitutional-rights precedent would have otherwise called for a harder hitting decision than only prohibiting the federal government from defining the word “spouse” as a gender-specific term.
The blogosphere is abuzz with people in the atheist and humanist community=ies putting more emphasis on the issue of religious exercise than is actually at play. Substantively, Burwell is not about protecting the religious-conscience of employers (Hobby Lobby already covered several of the types of contraceptive measures at question pre-Affordable Care Act). This is about the Court approving loopholes for companies to not have to pay a penalty for not covering the healthcare of their employees.
The Court also ruled yesterday on another case that was anti-union. In the past, the Court has been “business friendly,” and it also has swung to be more in support the more vulnerable members of our society.
At its core, what yesterday’s decision presents is an assault on the right of healthcare. We could rally around this as a clarion call beckoning us to stand up and demand single-payer health coverage. But we won’t. Instead of obfuscating this issue by saying, “Oh, those selfish and evil Christian extremists putting their desires before the safety of their workers,” we should be saying that basic health coverage at its foundations is not something that employers should be covering at their discretion, but something that is a matter of national security and our country’s future.
I have begun to feel as though if the subjects of focus that we humanists cast our attention toward were laid out on a pie chart where religion were the color red and everything else were the color blue, we would be looking at a red circle. Humanism is a lifestance that places its focus on the enjoyment, dignity, and depth of the human experience (I argue it needs more Ingersoll and less Dawkins). The assurance provided by the security of mind stating that you have available both preventative and restorative medicine and treatment frees one to pursue the more important aspects of life (not being terrified about bankruptcy should you break your arm is a rather handy way of allowing this to happen). And yet, we wonder why secularity is far more secure in the rest of the post-industrial world.
This is not a matter of protecting religious exercise. This is an assault on labor, and an issue of the need for single-payer healthcare is an organism so stretched to the brim with supporting evidence that it is on the verge of popping–that is, if it doesn’t die of an easily preventable illness first because it can’t pay.