Monday, June 30, 2014

Paper, Flesh And Blood, And The Supreme Court

A little over a year ago many conservatives were contending that the Supreme Court was an agent of hell out to destroy religious liberty for all. In fact the same-sex marriage rulings were enabling the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to give their steeds  free rein in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The stock price of sackcloth and ashes shot through the roof. Supporters of same-sex marriage, on the other hand, hailed the Supreme Court as a bastion of liberty and the guarantor of freedom to pursue happiness and live the American Dream to be married, have a family along with a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot.

Today, if my Twitter feed is any indication, conservatives believe the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case is a victory for religious liberty sure to usher in the next Great Awakening or a 21st Century miracle equivalent to that recorded in the second chapter of Acts. Liberals on the other hand seem to see today's decision as proof that the majority of the Supreme Court justices are the equivalent of  cheap streetwalkers providing sordid favors for corporations. (Hyperbole is the best way to deal with blessings and curses coming out the same mouths in such rapid order.)

Enough comments will be made about the how the rulings constrain or enable sexual and religious practices. I have no problems with either sex or religion. Those so inclined can insert their own joke about being naked in the public square here.

I am more interested in the status of flesh and blood persons as they relate to corporations. Today's ruling applies to "closely held corporations." The Wall Street Journal notes that closely held corporations have a limited number of stockholders and that the vast majority of corporations in the United States could be considered closely held corporations.
Closely held companies are owned by a relatively small number of investors, typically including their founding families and management. Roughly 90% of all companies in the U.S. are closely held, according to a 2000 study by the Copenhagen Business School.
If I understand today's ruling correctly, corporations, which are pieces of paper,  have the status of persons that are immortal and can act on their conscience with limited legal liability.  Flesh and blood humans die and are generally fully liable for their acts of conscience.

This ruling seems to create two classes of separate and unequal persons with the corporate persons having more rights and privileges than the flesh and blood persons. Today conservatives are cheering today's ruling because they view it as the victory of a corporate conscience over acts of individual licence.

I suspect today's blessings will turn to curses when this decision becomes a precedent that allows a future court to privilege the religious rights of a piece of paper over those of a devout flesh and blood Christian. When that happens, I expect many sermons to begin with Lamentations 3:15-18:
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
    and given me gall to drink.
16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
    he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” 

No comments: