The Supreme Court made a ruling at the end of June that will have repercussions for years, possibly for generations to come. The court decided that “closely held corporations” now have freedom of religion and can force women to go outside of the company-provided health insurance for birth control.
Reproductive freedom is every woman’s issue, and an issue for every person who has ever loved a woman.
Now, for the first time in history, for-profit corporations were granted the right to religious freedom. This decision to allow discrimination reminded me that Metropolitan Community Churches, the denomination I serve as global moderator, just passed the anniversary of a fire where dozens of our members were murdered. Our dead were left on display to be ogled—the murders were not investigated, and churches refused to bury our dead.
I know something about discrimination from those who claim their religion of love compels them to hate. I know what it is like to be in the crosshairs of religion.
When money, power, and dogma combine to dehumanize whole swaths of humanity—I call that hate.
When it comes to money, hate is rarely a descriptor used for corporations in the United States, but greed kills just as surely as virulent hatred. We live in a country where corporate riches and CEO salaries are soaring to barely comprehensible heights while intransigent poverty is growing like a cancer.
A withering middle class is spending down savings, piling up debt and selling off assets—just to make ends meet. Single mothers are the most likely to live in areas with concentrated poverty. African American, Native American and Hispanic American citizens are disproportionately impacted and the number of Whites living in poverty-stricken areas almost doubled since 2000.
Vulnerable citizens are the real “persons” the United States Constitution was intended to protect. Tragically, step-by-step, ruling-by-ruling, corporations have established themselves as “persons” with legal standing. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations should not be limited in how much they give to political campaigns—because they are “persons.” Corporations now hold our democracy in their hands.
And when it comes to dogma, corporations are now “persons” with religious freedom.
No amount of language about this only applying to “closely held” corporations can erase the fact that for-profit corporations now have the right to have their religion protected, and to use it to discriminate.
By doing so, the high court of the United States put all of our freedoms at risk. Like a tornado that plows through a living community, not only are the doors now open, but the walls are gone from all that would protect groups that have long been targeted for discrimination. It is not difficult to predict conservatives now seeking to deny a range of civil liberties, with religion being an excuse to discriminate. We are in the crosshairs of religion.
Although this decision impacts women’s access to reproductive health care, the scope of this decision could be much broader. This decision could turn back the hands of time and allow religious dogma to hold sway over basic human freedoms.
Any group that has been told to “stay in your place” based on the Bible is a target again.
MCC has worked for 45 years to claim civil liberties for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. We understand that none of us are free until all of us are free—women, people of color, the poor, the imprisoned. This decision makes our work harder, but we will not rest until justice comes for everyone.
The MCC Statement of Faith on Women’s Reproductive Health Rights and Justice states in part:
[MCC] affirms that all people are entitled to the rights and resources that equip them to make their own decisions about their bodies, their sexuality, and their well-being, including the inalienable right of women to control their bodies. We call on all levels of government and civil society to honor and respect those rights….It is not up to government, civil society, or organized religion to instruct them on what their choice should be.
Our bodies are ourselves. Whether we talk about the color of our skin, our gender, who we share our bodies with, or other category, religious people do not have the right to impose their beliefs on us. We thought we had that protection. We thought this was settled.
Freedom is never settled—it is always to be defended.
As abolitionist Wendell Phillips said in 1852, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Many have rephrased and reframed this idea, but now, more than ever, we must not rest easy until all of us can rest easy.
Photo via flickr user Nicholas Eckhart