The fallout from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has only begun, but I think Justice Ginsburg’s dissent wraps up a lot of progressive feelings when she says the decision’s “startling breadth” allows companies to “opt out of any law they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” She goes on to discuss how this decision could impact non-Christian religions and how each might construe what they could opt out of—“blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others.).”
In my opinion, this Supreme Court decision appears to stem from a broad sense of deplorable misogyny in popular religions and American culture, and I absolutely oppose this decision.
But I also wonder if the decision contains a tangled, twisted eco-upside?
It is certainly true that all religions—western, eastern, otherwise—contain much eco-centric teachings and values. Many are, after all, modeled on the ancient “sun worship” cultures and it’s no coincidence that many Christian and non-Christian holidays fall on or around the solstice and equinox.
And so, if I worship the sun or the Earth or all species on the planet, do I have to abide by laws that violate my religion?
By granting immunity from federal laws due to religious preference, the Supreme Court has cracked open a door that may not be easily shut.
Consider some speculative, but potential real-world lawsuits:
- You’re an Earth-worshipping pagan, you own a “closely held” corporation, and your corporation’s only choice of water comes from a massive dam and reservoir run by a government-owned utility. Can you sue that utility for violating your religious freedom and force it to provide you with water from a less environmentally damaging source?
- Your Earth-worshipping corporation is in an inner city, you have no way of generating your own solar electricity, and your utility requires that you get electricity generated from fracked-gas. Can you sue that utility and force it to provide you with clean energy that does not rely on fracking?
- Or how about something closer to the Obamacare point: Your Earth-worshipping corporation supports animal rights, veganism and decries pharmaceutical experiments on animals. Can you sue to force Obamacare to provide you with animal-friendly medicine?
The list could go on and on.
In my line of work as an advocate for the environment, I’ve been called all sorts of names saying I’m some kind of fanatic for the Earth. Further, in the popular media, folks who rail against environmentalists often say we have elevated environmentalism to a kind of religion.
If so, has the Supreme Court now given us the opportunity to fight against the government’s intrusion in our lives because it violates our religion?
I absolutely oppose the deplorable Hobby Lobby decision. And now it’s the law of the land.
Do I now have to abide by fracking laws that violate my religion?
Gary Wockner, PhD, is an environmental advocate and writer based in Fort Collins, CO.