Tuesday Reads: Live and Let Live Edition

Good Morning!

Big Picture InvisiblesWhy is it that many religious people just cannot live without imposing their views on others? That’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about since the reliably patriarchal side of SCOTUS took one more step to force  their favorite flavor of religion on the rest of us.  Today’s photo montage is via “The Invisibles”.  It is a montage of gay couples during the times when theirs was a “love that dare not speak its name”. There are so many folks that choose to live outside of the conventions of the society into which they were born.  I was raised to think that this country was born of the dreams of folks wanting to establish a place where they could not be persecuted for not following the majority’s norms.  Our country has not had perfect beginnings. But up until recently, I always felt that we were at least creeping towards a “more perfect union”.

While the plight of the GLBT community is improving and appears to have some forward momentum, there are others that are being shoved back into conformity with lives and values not of their choosing.  This includes women, immigrants and many minorities.  Why do others feel they have to justify their own lives by persecuting others? We’re headed towards our nation’s birthday.  What has happened to the idea of creating our “more perfect union” with “liberty and justice for all”?

So, first I feel like I have to add more to the discussion on the SCOTUS decision that allows privately and tightly held corporations that are not engaged lesinvisibles7in the business of religion to hold religious beliefs identical to the owners that are supposedly separate from the corporation enough to be indemnified by any illegal activities it undertakes.  Hillary Clinton made her views clear on the subject as did Justice Ginsberg writing for the dissent.  I will rely on their words here. Hillary Clinton calls the decision “deeply disturbing”. 

“It’s the first time that our court has said that a closely held corporation has the rights of a person when it comes to religious freedom,” she said during a Q&A at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “I find it deeply disturbing that we are going in that direction.”

“It’s very troubling that a sales clerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer’s health care plan because her employer doesn’t believe she should use birth control,” she continued.

Justice Ginsberg wrote a masterful dissent.  

On Monday, the Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby on the company’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, ruling that the mandate, as applied to “closely held” businesses, violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But the divided court’s 5-4 decision included a dramatic dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who called the majority opinion “a decision of startling breadth.” Ginsburg read a portion of her decision from the bench on Monday.

Addressing the majority of her colleagues — including all but one of the six men sitting on the Supreme Court — Ginsburg wrote:

In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent. 

The justice goes on to criticize the opinion’s interpretation of the religious freedom law, writing that “until today, religious exemptions had never been extended to any entity operating in ‘the commercial, profit-making world.'”

The reason why is hardly obscure. Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community. Indeed, by law, no religion-based criterion can restrict the work force of for-profit corporations…The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.

“In sum,” Ginsburg adds about the free exercise claims at the heart of this case,“‘[y]our right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.’”

Justice Alito got a little prickly in his majority opinion about Ginsburg’s strong criticism of their take on the case:

As this description of our reasoning shows, our holding is very specific. We do not hold, as the principal dissent alleges, that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Post, at 1 (opinion of GINSBURG, J.). Nor do we hold, as the dissent implies, that such corporations have free rein to take steps that impose “disadvantages . . . on others” or that require “the general public [to] pick up the tab.” Post, at 1–2. And we certainly do not hold or suggest that “RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on . . . thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby.” Post, at 2.The effect of the HHS-created accommodation on the women employed by Hobby Lobby and the other companies involved in these cases would be precisely zero. Under that accommodation, these women would still be entitled to all FDA-approved contraceptives without cost sharing. 

Ginsburg seems to reply to Alito by suggesting that what Alito sees as a narrow, limited decision is essentially an invitation for lots of future challenges on religious grounds: “Although the Court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations,” she writes,  “its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private. Little doubt that RFRA claims will proliferate.”

 Further quotes from Ginsburg’s dissent can be read at MOJO.friendssnapshots6

Here are seven more key quotes from Ginsburg’s dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:

  • “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage”
  • “Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community.”
  • “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.”
  • “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”
  • “Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to 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[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”
  • “Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution’s] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”
  • “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

You can read the full dissent here. (It starts on page 60.)

lesinvisibles5The court attempted a narrow decision but crept into an area of corporate law that could create an interesting situation.  Usually, corporations are considered distinct from their owners.  Hobby Lobby is a corporation tightly held by a family so the majority view basically carved out this type of corporation and said “it’s different”.  However, how can you indemnify owners from corporate malfeasance AND say that this specific corporation that doesn’t have a religious mission reflects this set of owner’s pet superstitions? Could the justices have unintentionally left a back door open to challenge the very basis of incorporation which is to make any corporation its own entity? 

The decision’s acknowledgment of corporations’ religious liberty rights was reminiscent of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 ruling that affirmed the free speech rights of corporations. Justice Alito explained why corporations should sometimes be regarded as persons. “A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends,” he wrote. “When rights, whether constitutional or statutory, are extended to corporations, the purpose is to protect the rights of these people.”

Justice Ginsburg said the commercial nature of for-profit corporations made a difference.

“The court forgets that religious organizations exist to serve a community of believers,” she wrote. “For-profit corporations do not fit that bill.”

 I wanted to point out the anniversary of a sad day in New Orleans history.  I’m not sure how many of you know about the UpStairs Lounge fire of 1973.  The arson mass murder of GLBT stands as the largest of its kind in modern history.

On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to a gay bar in New Orleans called the Upstairs Lounge, killing 32 gay men and women in what has gone down in history as thelargest gay mass murder in U.S. history.

Today is the 41st anniversary of that tragedy, which has been documented by Robert L. Camina in the new film “Upstairs Inferno”. According to the first official teaser trailer below, the horrific event led to even more reprehensible acts in its wake – several bodies from within the club were never claimed by family members, those survivors featured in the news went on to lose their jobs and livelihoods, and the New Orleans police department lagged its feet and attempted to cover up the deadly crime.

To this day, no one has ever been charged with setting fire to the UpStairs Lounge.

Many folks believe this is an event that should not be forgotten.article-2673296-1F272A1C00000578-673_470x729

For a complex array of reasons, including homophobia, shame, and despair, the fire and its victims languished in obscurity for years, not taking its proper place in the broader sweep of LGBT history, but this is quickly changing.

“Upstairs”, my musical tragedy commemorating the fire and honoring its victims premiered last year in New Orleans to sold-out audiences, as part of the 40th anniversary memorials and Pride events. A portion of the musical is now playing at the West Village Musical Theatre Festival in New York.

new book, “The UpStairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a Louisiana Gay Bar”, released just last month, is the most extensively-researched and carefully-told history of the subject.

And “Upstairs Inferno”, a documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Robert Camina is currently in post-production.

In addition, Delery, Camino, and I are advocating the inclusion of the UpStairs Lounge site on the National Register of Historic Places.

To commemorate the anniversary of the fire, I spoke with Camina about his documentary.

The lion’s share of published research about the fire comes from Johnny Townsend, author of “Let the Faggots Burn”, and Clay Delery. Did you interview them for the piece and what did you learn?

Well of course Townsend had a lot to contribute, because without his efforts many years ago to interview people, many of the stories would have been lost. So I think he brought a lot of insight to the tragedy that, since so many have passed on, we are not able to access.

Did you get to talk to anyone that Delery and Townsend did not get to talk to?

I don’t think they interviewed Francis Dufrene. We were able to interview him. He was a survivor of the fire. He slipped through the bars and jumped and landed on the pavement. He suffered third-degree burns. He gave us a distinctive perspective of what it was like in the middle of it when the fire started, so we definitely learned a little bit of what it was like the emotions just the mood and a frame of mind of what people going through in there.

As far as you can tell, what was the UpStairs lounge like as a bar?

It was a very comfortable place. Everyone we talked to said that the patrons were like a family. And the word that has come up that you’re very familiar with is “Sanctuary”.

Yes, that’s why I opened my musical with a song of that title. And of course, when a place that is considered a sanctuary is invaded and ruined, it has a profound impact on a community. And I’m not sure I had a whole sense of the impact that it had until I was there last year for the 40th Anniversary to see how the community responded to the memorial events and the play.

Just so you haven’t forgotten with the Republican pogram is these days, I give you a blast from the past from Fat Tony.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made an appearance at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas on Friday, where he claimed that the success of capitalism was deeply tied to the nation’s religious values.

“While I would not argue that capitalism as an economic system is inherently more Christian than socialism … it does seem to me that capitalism is more dependent on Christianity than socialism is,” Scalia, a devout Catholic, said during his speech,according to the Houston Chronicle. “For in order for capitalism to work — in order for it to produce a good and a stable society — the traditional Christian virtues are essential.”

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to read the part in the new testament where the jesus dude said ANY of that. Evidently, we’re supposed to all follow his brand of religion even if we find it to be complete bunk.

Why can’t we just live and let live?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

28 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Live and Let Live Edition”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    NIce post. I had not heard of the UpStairs Lounge fire before.

  2. This latest ruling is so disturbing. My mom has been sitting reading about it since yesterday, breathing heaving as she does…making comments and cussing while she learns more about the decision. I tell her I have not even looked at any of the details, or even read the blog about it, because I know it will get me even more worked up. She told me don’t read anything about it now. That is something, because she usually is telling me, “Did you see this? or Did you read about that?”

    With all the personal shit going on in my life, a good long pissed off rant would be good. But I can’t manage it. It is so exhausting. Miss you all so much.

    • Beata says:

      JJ, take your mother’s advice and don’t read or watch anything about the Hobby Lobby decision. In fact, you should stay away from all the news now. It will just upset you. Take care of yourself first and try to get as much rest as possible. I love you as I know everyone at Skydancing does. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

      I am going to repeat this to everyone here because it is a lesson I am still learning: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST!!!

  3. dakinikat says:


    Lone Star Crazy: How Right-Wing Extremists Took Over Texas
    In today’s Texas, which is falling into the hands of gun nuts, border-sealers and talk-radio charlatans, George W. Bush would practically be considered a communist

    • dakinikat says:

      Digby writing at Salon http://www.salon.com/2014/07/01/gop_created_a_nativist_monster_how_radical_wingnuts_seized_the_party/

      That group of consistently and mostly conservative Republicans who do not believe there should be any path to citizenship are the most active and energized participants in the GOP. They are backed up by a media machine that will launch into high gear the minute it looks remotely possible that an immigration deal might actually happen. These are the most active members of the conservative coalition and 73 percent of them believe that “immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.”

    • RalphB says:

      That sounds right to me. We will turn into a true shit hole if these people get their way.

  4. dakinikat says:


    Clarkson notes that the Christian right has been prone toward violence since at least 1994, “a period that was marked by a wave of arsons, bombings, and assassinations against abortion providers, as well as the rise of the militia movement,” but what may be different now is the move toward forging alliances between ancient enemies — he cites the 2009 Manhattan Declaration as an example. “Thus the Catholic/evangelical conversation may be taking a surprising turn,” he writes. Specifically:

    It may be more a matter of how, rather than when, the conversation about secession unfolds. Some see restoring the Christian nation (which arguably never was) as a hopeless cause. Others hope that a revival-powered wave of Christian nationalism will propel a profound cultural and political transformation. But if such a transformed America is not to be, a coalition with the avatars of Confederate revivalism will become more appealing, and will be well-aligned with McCloskey’s vision of the secession of conservative states.

  5. Beata says:

    Totally OT: I found out something today that might be of assistance to others here. I have been taking a medication for over 5 years now that is supposed to help control a chronic neurological problem related to my brain tumor. Because I can’t swallow solid foods, I also can’t swallow pills, so I have been dissolving the pills in water to liquefy them. My doctor knows I do this as does every pharmacist I have been in contact with for the last 5+ years. I have repeatedly asked both my doctor and my pharmacists if it is okay to liquefy the pills. I have been told it is fine to do that. Well, today I found out from a new pharmacist that the pills actually lose their effectiveness when liquefied. No wonder I was getting no relief from this particular neurological problem! For over 5 years! And I am a careful person who asks questions and does her research!

    Moral of this long story: If you or any one you help care for has to liquefy, crush, or otherwise alter a medication in order to take it ( which is often the case with children or the elderly ), specifically ask your pharmacist to check the pharmaceutical company’s instructions to find out if doing so causes the medication to lose its effectiveness or otherwise change its properties. To be extra careful, call the pharmaceutical company yourself and ask them directly. You could be harming your or a loved one’s health without even knowing it.

    • dakinikat says:

      Thanks for sharing that!!!

    • janicen says:

      Wow. Thank you for that info, Beata. I’m getting more and more disgusted with western medicine and reading about and turning to eastern medicine for certain ailments. I find eastern medicine providers much more interested in treating the whole person rather than just rushing through as many patients as possible in order to pay for their country club memberships.

      I can’t believe they put you through that for five years.

      • NW Luna says:

        late catching up and reading this. That is really bad that you weren’t given accurate information on your med. Having to crush pills or otherwise get them into a swallowable shape is fairly common for a number of people. There are references on this which I check because I can’t remember this for all of the meds. But there’s always new research — maybe this is a recent finding? And I find it startling that someone prescribed a med for you that didn’t help you but wanted you to keep taking it anyway!

        BTW Chinese-trained acupuncturists usually have a factory production-line mentality, especially when practicing in China. American-trained acupuncturists tend to allow much more time. And any good healthcare provider, regardless of training, should be whole-person focused. Plenty of naturopaths just want to sell you expensive, non-proven nostrums out of their office (rather than the cheaper versions at Super Supplements) — just as bad as when western biomedicine practitioners do it.

    • Fannie says:

      I would have never thought about it – particularly when the doctor says it’s okay. Thanks for the tips. Lord knows we take loads of med around my house.

  6. dakinikat says:

    Nothing more I adore than a big ol drag queen !! Something about the dress just gives these girls some extra snap!!!



    • RalphB says:

      That fits with the contention that economic growth goes from the ground up, not trickle down.

  7. dakinikat says:

    New York Magazine ‏@NYMag 2m
    The Supreme Court and social conservatives see sex as an inessential option for women. http://thecut.io/1qNH18y

  8. dakinikat says:

    #MarriageEquality Federal Judge Strikes Down Kentucky’s Gay Marriage Ban http://abcn.ws/1o4x1oX

  9. dakinikat says:


    Fox New host Jessie Waters: “Hillary Clinton needs the single ladies vote. I call them ‘The Beyoncé Voters’—the single ladies. Obama won single ladies by 76% last time, and made up about a quarter of the electorate. They depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands. They need contraception, health care, and they love to talk about equal pay.”

    • gregoryp says:

      That seems to show me that the Supreme Court now operates by making a decision and then finding some way to rationalize their beliefs rather than listening to the evidence and then making a sound, logical decision. At this point it is a train wreck and at least 3 of these guys need to be impeached and removed from the court. Their decisions have huge ramifications for our society and the quality of life of its citizens. To have religious right wing demagogues masquerading as Supreme Court justices is just scary and I think undermines the very fabric of our society.

      • RalphB says:

        I could not agree more!

      • dakinikat says:

        That’s what I think too.

      • bostonboomer says:

        That’s it exactly!

      • RalphB says:

        Not MSNBC, not CNN, not the Faux Right-Wing Propaganda Network , not even the PBS Newshour so far as I know, has invited Ralph Nader to claim authorship of the mess we’re all in because he seemingly believed and stated that the difference between the two parties was negligible. Fuck Ralph Nader!

  10. RalphB says:


  11. RalphB says:

    Hobby Lobby is even worse than I previously thought, Now the Supremes have sent cases back to the Circuit Courts for review where the business owners/assholes don’t want to pay for any pregnancy related preventative care. Originally, business owners lost but now they are to be decided by the Circuit Courts taking into account the Hobby Lobby case. It’s gonna be a huge damn mess!

    • dakinikat says:

      That doesn’t even count the confusion alito caused by carving out a special class of corporations. That could upset states’ incorporation laws.

    • Beata says:

      The Hobby Lobby decision is going to open up a big old can of legal worms. It is a very bad ruling on so many levels. How are “closely held corporations” and “sincerely held religious beliefs” going to be legally interpreted now? There seem to be no clear definitions. Are they like pornography in that the courts will know them when they see them?

      Ralph is right. It will be a mess. “Hobby Lobby” will have legal ramifications that reach far beyond contraceptive coverage for many years in the future.