Opinion » The Rant

The Rant

From Earl Butz to the SCOTUS Buttinskys: why are old white men telling women what to do with their bodies?


1 comment

Remember Earl Butz, the secretary of agriculture under Presidents Nixon and Ford? I'm sorry, of course you don't. Ask Pops if he remembers Earl Butz. He was a right-winger who favored corporate farming and campaigned to end New Deal programs during the Nixon era, but he was best known for his crude humor and a string of personal gaffes. Butz was ultimately fired for telling a racist joke in the company of white-bucs-and-mayonnaise singer Pat Boone and White House Counsel John Dean, that was so repugnant, even Nixon couldn't stand to keep him around anymore.

Before that incident, however, Butz received worldwide attention after an international conference in 1974 where he ridiculed Pope Paul VI's opposition to birth control by saying in a mock-Italian accent: "He no playa the game, he no maka the rules."

The White House made him apologize to Catholics for his insensitivity, but he had a point. Why should a secretive group of celibate men determine the reproductive health options for a billion women who serve under their religious leadership? Then again, why should five, male, Catholic justices of the Supreme Court be allowed to make laws concerning women's birth control issues in the good old USA? And in the 21st century. I thought we had settled this argument in the 1960s. To the male members of the Supreme Court: What Earl Butz said.

In its controversial Hobby Lobby decision, the court decided that a closely held public corporation, like the Green family's Christian bead and thread racket, had the right to a religious exemption in providing certain methods of birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, the Greens' "sincerely held religious beliefs" prevented them from allowing the IUD or the morning-after pill to be included in the health coverage for more than 13,000 employees, because they believe that anything that interferes with a fertilized egg's development is akin to abortion.

Until now, the Supreme Court has never declared a for-profit company as a religious organization for purposes of federal law. But since they already declared that corporations are merely people using money as speech, why shouldn't they give them a religion too? We could have Sunday services in the foyer of Home Depot and Wednesday Bible study at Chik-fil-A. If a corporation declared a religious objection to child labor laws or immunization programs or serving a mixed-race couple in a public restaurant, would that also be covered by the Hobby Lobby decision?

Hobby Lobby pays insurance premiums to big companies that are supposed to cover all their employees' health needs. Their objection to two forms of female contraception in the great realm of health concerns is merely picking and choosing just whose religious freedom is being impeded — the boss' or the employee's. Shouldn't something as personal as the morning-after pill be a discussion between a woman and her doctor or pharmacist, rather than between a woman and her employer?

A male corporate officer is now legally permitted to say to a female executive, "You can take birth control pills, but don't let me catch you with an IUD." Of course, if contraception were the sole responsibility of men, it would be universally mandated. This absurd decision was less about religious freedom than a bunch of cranky old men having another whack at Obamacare. When you pay your monthly health insurance premium, you have no say as to how that money is spent. I don't like part of my yearly income taxes going to finance wars, but I still pay them. 

The three female justices fiercely dissented, especially Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote a blistering 35-page dissent, saying that the court had "ventured into a minefield," and enquiring whether there might also be a "religiously grounded objection to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); anti-depressants (Scientologists); or medications derived from pigs (like) anesthesia and intravenous fluids (Muslims, Jews, and Hindus)?" In the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, leaders of 14 Christian organizations have written a letter to President Obama demanding religious exemption from a pending executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against gays in hiring practices. The letter claims, "Without a robust religious exemption this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity, and religious freedom."

Really? What's next? Who eats at the drug store lunch counter? These 14 Christian groups wish to reserve the right to discriminate against the gay, lesbian, and transgender community, because that's what Jesus would do?

What has just happened is the Supreme Court has unconstitutionally declared an official state religion, and until a Congress emerges with the courage to confront them, that religion is right-wing, conservative Christianity.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Showing 1-1 of 1


Add a comment