Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Kim Davis Does the SOTU — With Little Sisters of the Poor: Anti-Obama "Religious Freedom" Advocates Joined at the Hip

And so last evening, both the Little Sisters of the Poor and Kim Davis were invited by Republican officials* to the State of the Union address. Interestingly enough, the leading Catholic "liberal" publication National Catholic Reporter chose yesterday to highlight the presence of the Little Sisters of the Poor at this event with not one, but two, articles, one a Catholic News Service report indicating that the U.S. Catholic bishops have filed an amicus brief on behalf of the group of nuns in their battle with the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate, the other an article by reporter Dawn Araujo-Hawkins providing yet more rather glowing publicity for the Little Sisters of the Poor's challenge to the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

The CNS article points to Araujo-Hawkins's article with a link identifying it as "related." The CNS article concludes by noting that two Little Sisters of the Poor would be in attendance at the SOTU address. Araujo-Hawkins's report states that Catholic GOP house speaker Paul Ryan had invited the Little Sisters of the Poor to this event, and notes that on Monday, 207 members of Congress, 202 of whom are Republicans, had filed an amicus brief in support of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Neither the CNS piece nor Araujo-Hawkins's makes any mention of the fact that the Little Sisters of the Poor would be at the SOTU event in the company of the notorious anti-gay "religious freedom" activist Kim Davis — though what the Little Sisters of the Poor are asking the federal government to do in their case is more or less exactly the same thing that that Ms. Davis wants: the right of people of faith to discriminate against those protected by state and federal laws, on the basis of what they claim to believe. 

My faith trumps your rights. Because I say so. Because I believe. Because I deserve special rights to be dispensed from laws prohibiting discrimination, while denying rights to you.

Because I believe

Though Araujo-Hawkins's article providing the Little Sisters of the Poor publicity for their attack on the Obama administration links to an amicus brief filed by Republican Congressfolks (almost exclusively), the article does not take note of what that amicus brief actually says. It states very plainly that the Little Sisters of the Poor want the right to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees under the ACA, and to refuse to sign documents permitting others to provide that coverage so that their own consciences might be clear, because signing this form "will result in their chosen carriers providing their employees with free access to contraceptives and/or drugs that petitioners believe are abortifacients" (emphasis mine).

Note the all-important word "believe" in this amicus brief: as those filing it surely know (hence their deliberate use of the word "believe" here), the contraceptives to which the Little Sisters of the Poor are objecting are not abortifacients. But the Little Sisters of the Poor believe that they're abortifacients, in contravention of sound scientific evidence.

And they're asking for their right — with the backing of the Republican party and the U.S. Catholic bishops — to impose their counter-factual, anti-scientific belief on all of their employees. Because they say so. 

If you think about it, this is an astonishing thing to ask for, isn't it, the right to make up "beliefs" and then impose them on everyone else in a pluralistic secular society? Because you say so.

But it's exactly what Ms. Davis and her backers are asking for, just as it's exactly what the Little Sisters of the Poor and the U.S. Catholic bishops are asking for. So isn't it curious that accounts of the invitation of the Little Sisters of the Poor to the SOTU address, which provide glowing free publicity for their attack on the Obama administration, take no note of the fact that the Little Sisters (and the USCCB) are joined at the hip with Ms. Davis, her lawyer Mat Staver of the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, and Tony Perkins of the anti-gay Family Research Council in the very same "religious freedom" crusade?

Which is all about the request of certain members of American society to be permitted to deny rights to other members of American society because they believe, and because they want to be permitted to claim that their beliefs, even when these are not shared by other people of faith or by society at large, and even when they contravene reason and scientific evidence, should trump the rights of others . . . .

Because — have I said this before? — they believe, for goodness' sake!

(Kim Davis has proven such an abysmal, off-putting icon for this bogus "religious freedom" argument that Catholic leaders promoting it want at all cost to avoid being lumped together with her — though what they're asking for from a Catholic perspective is precisely what she is demanding from an evangelical Protestant perspective, and though this bogus "religious freedom" argument has been crafted by the Catholic bishops in collaboration with right-wing white evangelicals and Mormons.)

Please see the next posting here, on Frederick Clarkson's important new essay about religious freedom entitled "When Exemption Is the Rule," which links to this essay.

*The ticket for Ms. Davis was provided by Ohio GOP representative and chair of the House Freedom Caucus, who claims that he had no knowledge that when he handed tickets to the Family Research Council, that right-wing group (classified as an anti-gay hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center) intended to hand the tickets to Ms. Davis and her attorney, Mat Staver of Liberty Council — yet another group classified by SPLC as an anti-gay hate group).

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