When faith steps on health
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 in favor of freedom — unless you don't believe in it.
The justices said Monday that if a family-owned corporation -- one that sells craft supplies or makes cabinets, for example, -- wraps itself in the Bible, then it can claim a religious exemption and tell its female workers it won't cover four of the most popular forms of contraception in the country.
Yes, Hobby Lobby and other companies claiming a religious center can now tell its female workers or the wives of its male employees that they, the corporate employers, will determine what form of birth control workers can choose that will be covered.
The ruling drives a deepening wedge between women's health and just plain health. Vasectomy (one in five American men over 35 have had vasectomies, according to medical websites) was not one of the four methods of birth control that Hobby Lobby and Conestonga Wood Specialties objected to.
But that's not the only absurdity of this deeply troubling decision, made after the companies filed lawsuits claiming the Affordable Care Act requirement to pay for contraception coverage violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.
The health care law and its related regulations require many employers to provide female workers with comprehensive insurance coverage for a variety of methods of contraception. The companies objected to some of the contraception methods, saying they are tantamount to abortion because they can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb. Providing insurance coverage for those forms of contraception would, the companies said, make them complicit in the practice.
The ruling appears more partisan than balanced, but most frightening is how far it seems to move the goal posts on corporate rights.
Despite the court's claim that it tried to write a ruling narrowly tailored to these specific cases, the decision opens the door to challenges from other corporations to many laws that may be said to violate religious liberty. Can a family corporation refuse to serve gays or Muslims if they claim religious freedom because they try to run their businesses on religious principles? Perhaps not now, but clearly the door is unlocked.
And how soon, now, will a job depend on Sunday church attendance?
Really, Americans, do you want your corporate bosses telling you how to live your life during your off time -- anymore than they already do?
Democrats and the GOP primary
No one, including Democrats, should miss Wednesday's debate between incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and his GOP primary challenger for the 3rd Congressional District post, Weston Wamp.
The two will meet head to head in their first debate of the campaign season in a Chattanooga Times Free Press and WTCI-TV-sponsored event at 2 p.m. at the WTCI studios. The debate will be aired on WTCI -- Chattanooga's public television station. Later Wednesday, the debate will be streamed at timesfreepress.com and aired on WTCI, both at 8. The Times Free Press will have full coverage in Thursday's edition. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit them through social media using the hashtag #tn3rd on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Democrat Mary Headrick, a physician, and independent candidate Cassandra Mitchell will face the GOP pick in November. Headrick has no Democratic primary opposition, and independents have no primary.
But in this very red district in this very red state, Democrats need to make sure they have the best possible representative in Congress, and that may very well mean a cross-over vote in this primary to choose the most viable, energetic and thoughtful candidate on the November ticket.
Watching the debate will help every voter make a better decision.