What women & LGBTQ people lose when church & state collide

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After standing with Donald Trump throughout his morally reprehensible actions and policy directives, conservative Evangelical Christians – along with other anti-choice, anti-contraceptive, and anti-LGBTQ zealots – were downright giddy over the possibility of finally receiving some of the promised dividends for selling their souls to the Devil.

This group has sacrificed all of their “deeply held religious beliefs.” They have stood with him from his destructive and epithet-laden tweets, to his promise of constructing a wall on our southern border, to the Access Hollywood tape, to revelations of his payoffs to quiet a porn star, to separating babies and young children from their parents and putting them in cages, to his planning an insurrection on the Capitol, to his squirreling top-secret documents at his Florida resort.

Throughout Trump’s bully-in-an-America-shop candidacy to his plowing into the White House, his expectant base of supporters ran ahead like the excited sprinters in the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, all with the hoped-for remuneration of Trump packing the judicial branch with decidedly right-wing judges and justices.

The wall with Mexico was merely one of the many structures Trump promised to build. When he asserted during the campaign that he wanted to punish women who have abortions, as well as the doctors who perform them, he was also walling-off women from their reproductive rights.

By committing to stack the Supreme Court with an ultra-conservative majority and promising to reverse both marriage equality and Roe v. Wade (resulting in the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case), he gave conservatives the vision of a gigantic concrete structure separating women and LGBTQ people from their bodies and their civil rights, and certainly from their humanity.

Unfortunately, Trump has fulfilled some of these promises.

In yet another jaw-dropping, bigoted, hateful, and life-threatening court ruling, a federal judge recently ruled that employers are not compelled to cover HIV and pregnancy prevention drugs without any cost-sharing, as is required by the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services clause. The judge, however, declared that clause unconstitutional.

The case was brought by two Texas businesses and several Texas residents. The judge, Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas, found that the requirement for employers to cover HIV prevention drug preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and birth control violated employers’ “religious freedom” as outlined in the Religious Rights Restoration Act.

The judge did not agree with the Biden administration’s argument that PrEP poses a “compelling government interest” in asking private insurance plans to cover the drugs at no cost-sharing or without any religious exemptions.

The ACA’s preventive services requirement stipulates that insurers must fully cover 100 preventive services without cost-sharing to plan members.

O’Connor’s ruling could be used to deny coverage of life-saving vaccines and other vital drugs if employers claim these therapies violate their “deeply held religious beliefs.”

U.S. Congress passed the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”

Though the Act was ruled unconstitutional in 1997 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s City of Boerne v. Flores decision, which determined that the Act goes beyond Congress’s enforcement power, it continues to be applied to the federal government. It was used, for example, in Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal (2006) and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014).

In response to these and other related cases, twenty-one states have passed State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to state governments and local municipalities.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 2014

“The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.”

Justice Samuel Alito, in the majority opinion, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

We can add “Justice” Samuel Alito, “Justice” Anthony Kennedy, “Justice” John Roberts, “Justice” Clarence Thomas, and last, but certainly not least, “Justice” Antonin Scalia to an oxymoronic list since this Supreme Court decision amounted to anything but justice.

The five men voting in the majority denied the rights of women, particularly working-class women employees at “closely-held” (family owned with a limited number of shareholders) for-profit corporations, which includes most U.S. corporations.

The case involved the families who owned the national chain of craft stores, Hobby Lobby, plus a Christian bookstore chain, and Conestoga, a Mennonite family-owned woodworking company. The parties claimed that the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and in particular, a few specific contraceptive devices covered by health insurance companies, violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The act stated that “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion….”

The decision follows former 2012 presidential candidate Willard Mitt Romney’s assertion that “Corporations are people my friend,” and clearly shows that million- and billion-dollar corporate families have more rights than workers.

When patriarchal Christian nationalist white supremacist social and economic systems attempt to keep women pregnant and taking care of children, they can restrict their entry into the workplace and ensure their dependence on men both economically and emotionally.

As people have produced more and more children, expanding numbers of little consumers emerge to contribute to the capitalist system’s ever increasing profits for owners of business and industry. The patriarchal Christian nationalist white supremacist imperative to control women’s and LGBTQ people’s bodies amounts to imperatives to control their minds and life choices.

And when patriarchal white supremacist social and family structures converge with Christian nationalist religious systems, the oppression of women and LGBTQ people became inevitable.

Since the United States is majority Christian in all its many sects and denominations, and the conservative Supreme Court majority follows some form of Christianity, any claim of a supposed “separation of Church and state” is nothing more than a fraudulent platitude in the service of Christian nationalism.

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