On Sept. 8, Humanist Celebrant, Robert Ray, delivered the first humanist invocation to the Marysville City Council meeting.
First off, let me thank you for the opportunity to provide a Humanist Invocation to begin your deliberations today. As this body convenes to do the business of the city, instead of lowering your heads in prayer, I suggest that you look ahead, with anticipation and enthusiasm, for the task set before you. A task charged to you by the people of Marysville.
It has finally happened. The SCOTUS has come down against individual rights in favor of corporate personhood by effectively saying that corporations have the same right religious freedom as “natural” people.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that for profit business can deny contraception coverage to women because they have a religious objection to it. Luckily this ruling only applies to contraception by claiming that the government could provide an alternative to the employer provided option.
After reading Justice Scalia’s decision, it becomes very clear where he stand on both religious liberty and corporate personhood. By stating that the concept the business may have a religious belief as in the ruling made in Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, which coincidentally, the decision in that case was written by Justice Scalia, he has opened the gates for companies to deny coverage for things they have a religious objection to. Scalia has reinforced this claim that corporations have the same rights an actual people.
While this ruling is aim specifically at contraception, as stated in section 3-c-3
“This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice,”
This decision will give a precedent for other private corporation to sue for the ability to deny coverage to their employees. For instance, if a corporation is identifying as Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is the possibility that they could refuse to cover the cost of an emergency blood transfusion, leaving the employee to pay that bill out of pocket. It is also feasible that a Christian Science corporation to deny medical coverage entirely.
While these are extremes, they are entirely in line with the Hobby Lobby decision. However one implication that may actually come to pass is the spousal benefits. The question here is would religiously affiliated companies be allowed to deny coverage to same-sex spouses? I predict that this will be in the courts within the next few years.
In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg, noted that an amendment to the ACA was voted down in the Senate prior the passing of the bill. Labeled the “Conscience Amendment”, it would have allowed employers and providers to “deny coverage based on its asserted religious belief or moral conviction” Since this amendment failed it become apparent that the bill was never intended to allow this sort of practice.
She also wrote the requirement to provide coverage for contraception is not a command for the corporation to purchase and provide it to its employees. Ginsburg states
“Instead it call on the companies covered by the requirement to direct money to the undifferentiated funds that finance a wide variety of benefits under the comprehensive health plan”
According to her, this does not impinge on the religious freedom of the owners and operators any more than the payment of taxes which is used for other religiously objectionable spending by the government. As she pointed out that in previous cases the Court has ruled in against those claiming religious exemption to Social Security numbers and their use. (Bowen v. Roy, 476 U. S. 693
Commenting the implications of this precedent , Ginsberg states:
“Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives 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 (Christian Scientists, among others)?31 According to counsel for Hobby Lobby, “each one of these cases . . . would have to be evaluated on its own . . . apply[ing] the compelling interest-least restrictive alternative test.” Tr. of Oral Arg. 6. Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision”
As I stated earlier, the flood gates of lawsuits have been opened.
Grandmother Fish teaches preschoolers to love the idea that we are descended from animals. Can you wiggle like a fish?
Grandmother Fish is the first book to teach evolution to preschoolers. While listening to the story, the child mimics the motions and sounds of our ancestors, such as wiggling like a fish or hooting like an ape. Like magic, evolution becomes fun, accessible, and personal. Grandmother Fish will be a full-size (10 x 8), full-color, 32-page, hardback book full of appealing animal illustrations, perfect for your bookshelf. US publishers consider evolution to be too “hot” a topic for children, but with your help we can make this book happen yourself.
You can help fund this campaign by clicking on the link below.
Author of “Here and Now: A Whimsical Take on God” We are pleased to announce that author Jeff Stilwell at our June 15th meeting at the Skagit Valley Food Co-op. “Internationally enjoyed illustrator and humanist thinker Jeff Stilwell takes us on a journey that begins in ancient history, in the land of Ur, where God making was all the rage. Pursuing that thread through the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the present day, we discover that we don’t need to make up gods to explain things anymore. Since we all come accessorized with an expiration date, Stilwell encourages us all to make the most of this life we have to live, here and now. Starring Stilwell’s freethinking alter-ego Thrashin’ Jack and his friend Lotus, Here and Now features over one hundred delightful and charming comics illuminating the story. ”
In a 5-4 ruling, The Supreme court overturned a lower court decision today stating “that the town’s prayer practice does not violate
the Establishment Clause.”
Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion in which he said:
“so long as the town maintains a policy
of nondiscrimination, the Constitution does not require it to search
beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to
achieve religious balancing.” and
“Our tradition assumes that adult
citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person
of a different faith.”
The ruling also state that the practice of prayer at legislative has a “long tradition and its purposes are to lend gravity” to the proceedings an “acknowledge the place religion holds on private citizens”.
Also noted is the idea that the intended audience of these prayers is the legislative body not the general public in attendance. Citing the 1983 Marsh vs Chamber ruling as precedent it said this type prayer ” is largely to accommodate the spiritual needs of lawmakers and connect them to a tradition dating to the time of the Framers.”
In the final statement in the ruling the Justice Kennedy wrote”
“The town of Greece does not violate the First Amend
ment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports
with our tradition and does not coerce participation by
nonadherents. The judgment of the U. S. Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit is reversed. ”
I am entirely upset by this decision. I firmly believe that holding a prayer before any government meeting is a direct violation of the first amendment. What I truly find absurd here is the way the 5 justices squirm they way out of this by using words like tradition and ceremonial.
Really, tradition and ceremony? That is a poor way to make a decision of this nature. Why don’t we use this as part of every other decision we make? Because it never allows for change or progress.
But I think we may have a bigger issue at stake here. Now local councils will be able to have invocations again based on this ruling provided they follow the “inclusive” nature of the Greece rules, and much like a local city, Oak Harbor, has done they will allow for the conscience of the speaker to rule. And as has been the case in both Oak Harbor and Greece, NY, the prayers will likely remain almost entirely Christian. The only non-christian prayer given in Oak Harbor was done by myself in February and the only one in Greece was in 2008 given by a Baha’i chairman. In both cases we had to ask to give the invocation. The towns made no effort to seek out other faiths or view points.
So what do we do? What course of action so we take. Well there is good news. If your town or county council begins to or currently has public prayers you can request to have a humanist give an invocation as well. If you do not know of someone in your area willing to give an invocation you may find one at theHumanist Society website set up specifically for this purpose.
Specifically if you are in the Washington, I can certainly help out with this. I have already started acampaign to be allowed to give an invocation at the State House.