High Priestess Ginsburg Rebukes the Heathen (William Norman Grigg)
Monday July 7th, 2014
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg professes to be offended by the idea that a commercial enterprise can claim protection under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. She is just as adamant in her insistence that an equally abstract entity called the “government” has “interests” that justify imposing on the property rights of private business owners.
“The exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial legal entities,” Ginsburg complained in her dissent in the Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling. In defense of that proposition she cites John Marshall’s description of a corporation as “an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.” In similar fashion, she quotes John Paul Stevens’ observation that corporations “have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.”
Ginsburg appears to be a chromosome-level statist, which is why she doesn’t understand that this descriptive language also applies to the fictive entity called “government.” It, too, is an invisible, impersonal abstraction existing only in the minds of those who believe in it. The “government” has no body, parts, or passions. It has no hands save those that are raised by believers in violence against the infidels, and (to paraphrase Nietzsche) no wealth save that which was stolen in its name.
The substantive difference between a business enterprise and a “government” is that the former is an association of people who engage in commerce, rather than coercion. Absent the cooperation of those calling themselves the government, a corporation cannot compel anybody to purchase their services. The majority in the Hobby Lobby ruling tentatively suggested that there are limits on the government’s supposed authority to compel people to purchase services on behalf of others – a development Ginsburg treats as a portent of impending anarchy. We should only be so lucky.
Throughout her puerile and petulant dissent, Ginsburg piously invokes what she calls the “compelling interest” of the government in forcing private business owners to underwrite the purchase of contraceptives by their female employees.
She doesn’t explain how an impalpable construct with no tangible form or individual will can be “compelled” by anything. What she, and people of her persuasion, mean when they employ that phrase is that those who act in the name of the “government” can claim an interest in compelling others to behave in certain ways.
According to Ginsburg, the question that defines this controversy is not “By what authority does the government compel?” but rather “By what right does anyone claim an exemption?”
The majority decision held that under the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the federal government is required to accommodate the religious convictions of business owners who do not want to be compelled to underwrite specific forms of birth control – in this case, four of sixteen FDA-approved methods that can reasonably be construed as abortifacients.
Giving voice to the totalitarian left – those who believe that government powers, exercised by the “right” people, should be illimitable – Ginsburg protests that this exemption opens the “floodgates” to supposed social horrors of every kind.
“Hobby Lobby and Conestoga [a company that joined in the lawsuit] surely do not stand alone as commercial enterprises seeking exemptions from generally applicable laws on the basis of their religious beliefs,” she writes, reeling off a series of previous rulings against business owners who were found in violation of anti-discrimination statutes. The list included a restaurant owner from Georgia who refused to accept black customers in the 1960s, and the more recent case of New Mexico wedding photographer Elane Huguenin, who was punished for refusing to provide her services to a same-sex couple.
According to Ginsburg and the professional collectivist hysterics who pretend to believe her, the federal government's claimed power to compel Christian employers to underwrite the purchase of abortion pills for their female employees is the only thing preventing the imposition of a totalitarian theocracy, or large-scale reversion to Jim Crow.
“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 … antidepressants … medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin .. and vaccinations?” Ginsburg continues. By granting any religious exceptions to what she insists is a “neutral, generally applicable law,” the majority “has ventured into a minefield” in which they will have to assess the merits of each claimed religious exemption.
This makes sense only if we ignore the only “neutral, generally applicable law” that exists – the law of non-aggression against property rights. Ginsburg is a collectivist by inclination, so it’s not surprising that her dissent ignores the question of property rights entirely: In what sense did Hobby Lobby’s corporate policy violate the property rights of their female employees?
“No doubt the Greens and Hahns” – the family owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, respectively – “and all who share their beliefs may decline to acquire for themselves the contraceptives in question,” Ginsburg sneers, condescension coloring every syllable. “But that choice may not be imposed on employees who hold other beliefs.” She does not deign to explain how declining to subsidize another person’s choices amounts to an “imposition” – or why those acting in the name of the formless, disincarnate “government” can impose upon employers to provide such subsidies.
“Working for Hobby Lobby or Conestoga … should not deprive employees of the preventive care available to workers at the shop next door,” Ginsburg decrees. She neither addresses nor seems to contemplate this question: If such care is all-important, why would women seeking it choose to work at Hobby Lobby, rather than “the shop next door”? One answer is that Hobby Lobby is a growing company whose owners offer very generous compensation – more than double the minimum wage – in an economy that has been made sick unto death through the ministrations of the “government” before which Ginsburg and her ilk would force us to genuflect.
When Hobby Lobby’s female employees are paid, their wages become their property and can be spent on any birth control method they desire, without restrictions or impositions of any kind from the company’s owners. Those working at the “shop next door,” on the other hand, might very well receive full coverage -- until the business that employs them suffocates beneath the unbearable weight of the government’s regulatory mandates. But sacrifices of that kind are necessary to propitiate the omniprovident entity called “Government,” as Ginsburg and other priests and priestess of its cult will patiently explain to individualist heathen.
William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program