The war on religion

The Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby elicited unsurprising reaction from the usual suspects. Fundraisers from the GOP, like Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, pushed out a pitch immediately, noting that the court "ruled to protect our First Amendment right to free speech and religious freedom." (Emphasis his.)

Scroll down to his note that the court "struck a blow to ObamaCare's intrusive mandate."

Scroll to the "ask" at the end: "Donate to the RNC before our critical deadline at midnight tonight to put a STOP to Obamacare."

ADVERTISEMENT
No less hyperbolic (but minus the bold font) was the appeal from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which bleated that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had called the Hobby Lobby decision "another defeat" for President Obama.

Scroll down: "Well, Boehner's going to be completely blindsided by this."

And then the ask: "We're just 7916 donations away from hitting ONE MILLION DONATIONS to defeat Boehner's House Republicans. That means we can end all that Obamacare repeal talk once and for all. It's Washington, it's an election year, and money fuels the electoral fire. I expected Republicans and conservatives to overstate the reach of the court's decision, elevating the majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, to a stratospheric level of significance that it does not attain.

What I did not expect was the rhetoric laced with a creeping disdain for religion. And a level of ad hominem attacks from Democrats and liberals that does a disservice to a reasoned discussion about the decision.

For that reasoned discussion, let me quote noted attorney and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who said on the "The Michael Smerconish Program" on Sirius XM's P.O.T.U.S. channel that "the decision was the right one," because it makes accommodations.

"We live in a country of tremendous religious diversity. If we can make accommodations without unduly interfering with governmental actions, that's the right approach."

In fact, he says, "the Constitution suggests that's the approach we ought to take."

On my Sirius XM program, Samantha Gordon with NARAL ProChoice America championed "the clerk" at Hobby Lobby who likely cannot afford the "$45-100 per month" cost of contraception. Unlike the owners of Hobby Lobby, who "can afford birth control, but because of their narrow beliefs that are not based on sound science" inserted themselves "into their employees' health care decisions and deny them this benefit."

Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, slammed the decision, saying it opened the door for Hobby Lobby and similar (as the opinion defined them) "closely held businesses" to "impose their religious beliefs on their employees. And of course, denying women the right to contraception as part of their healthcare plan does exactly that." Clinton also bemoaned the fate of the "sales clerk" at Hobby Lobby (I am not sure if she and Samantha know the same clerk), who will not get contraception through her healthcare plan.

She went on to warn that this decision smacks of a "disturbing trend" seen in patriarchal religious societies that are "very unstable, anti-democratic, and frankly prone to extremism." She could have added "like the Taliban" and it would have foliated that logic tree.

These arguments at least mischaracterize and at worst demonize the sincerely held religious beliefs of so many Americans.

Religion is not based on science. It is based on faith. Sometimes science unsettles and even undermines religion. If facts contradict faith, then religious beliefs need to adjust to reality.

The argument over contraception, and specifically the four abortifacients at issue in this case, is unsettled by science: When does life begin? As long as the argument rages, the Congress will write laws, and the courts — perhaps ultimately the Supreme Court — will work toward accommodating (as Dershowitz notes) the conflicting interests of the parties at the bar.

A further extension of this dismissal of religion-as-cult, equally unworthy of the issue, is that "five Catholic men" made the decision, with the implicit suggestion that they voted as a bloc, accoutered with the burdensome blinders of their backgrounds and sex.

Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy voted in the majority, and are — last we checked — men, and Catholic. This in and of itself is no more evidence of a monolith voting en bloc than 75 percent of the minority being Jewish (Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) or women (Kagan, Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor).

All of the justices are graduates of Ivy League law schools (five Harvard, three Yale, and one Columbia). There were in rarified air before they ever sat on the high court. This does not disqualify them from having the imagination to bring equanimity to the cases before them.

I am not a lawyer. Did the Supreme Court get it right on Hobby Lobby? Well, five justices think so, and four do not. I suspect we will know better 50 years from now. This democracy is a work in progress.

In the meantime, a little more discussion on the merits of the case, and legislative remedies, would be welcome. Let's dispense with portraying people of faith as enemies of reason and fairness.

Farley is managing editor and host of "The Morning Briefing" and "The Midday Briefing" on P.O.T.U.S., Sirius XM's 24-hour politics channel.