Monday on The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell the subject was the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, as it was on almost every news program. O’Donnell began by looking at how the justification for the ruling came from a 1993 law passed by a Democratic controlled House and Senate and signed by Bill Clinton.
That law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was largely unnoticed at the time, no one felt that they were losing their religious freedom, except for Native Americans who used peyote in their religious rites and were being denied employment or losing jobs because of that drug usage.
The law was intended to protect people from loss of employment because of their religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court ruled in its decision that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies not only to individuals but also to some corporations such as Hobby Lobby as Justice Alito wrote in the majority opinion:
“Protecting the free exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby…protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies.”
The biggest flaw that O’Donnell and his guest, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood found in Alito’s reasoning was that he did not, in any way shape or form explain how a claim from the owners of these companies would demonstrate that they object to some forms of birth control due to “deeply held religious beliefs.”
As O’Donnell points out, one can be converted to a religion today and tomorrow you have “deeply held religious beliefs” that you did not have today.
Of course this is not the only flaw in the ruling, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the dissenting opinion:
“Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accomodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very risk the Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”
When O’Donnell asked Richards for her take on the ruling she began by saying that it was a devastating decision for women, their families and women’s health, opining that it was “a day when it was better to be a corporation than a woman.”
“This is really government intrusion at its worst,” she said, “between the doctor/patient relationship.”
O’Donnell asked Richards about the distinction that Justice Alito made between other treatments that might violate an employer’s religious beliefs such as transfusions and immunizations noting that it seems that the Court is saying that these things are more important than birth control.
“Justice Alito clearly called out birth control as somehow different and I suppose more controversial,” Richards said. “And this is despite the fact that almost every woman in America uses birth control at some point in her lifetime.”
“For women,” she continued, “the only controversial thing about birth control, the only controversy surrounding birth control is why we can’t get it covered by our insurance plans.”
Watch the segment in the video below.