The struggle continues… but one must ask the question, remedy are we actually moving forward or just losing ground? The platitudes upon which this nation was founded…Life, viagra Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…continue to be challenged by those who feel their rights to religious freedoms are somehow under counterattack by their fellow citizens’ pursuit of their own personal freedoms and rights as defined by the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. The current case before the U.S. Supreme Court challenges the portion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides reproductive care to women in the form of birth control. The issue, for the plaintiff, Hobby Lobby, is the company considers being compelled to offer its female employees contraceptive services through their healthcare plan, violates its right to exercise their religious freedom to refuse to provide that particular choice for their employees on the moral grounds that offering the provision, requires them to betray their fundamental religious beliefs that life begins at conception. The plaintiff is objecting to certain “types” of birth control methods being included in the ACA reproductive services offered to women.
This case touches a lot of hot-button issues. The law exempts religious nonprofits from this requirement, but for-profit corporations were not exempt. The Hobby Lobby case takes us back to the “Corporations are people” idea of the 2012 Presidential Campaign. Again, women and women’s reproductive rights are being placed in the center of the argument before the Supreme Court. It does not go un-noticed that underlying the entire discussion is the abortion debate and the religious right’s unrelenting attempts to have the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 overturned.
Recently we have had an assault on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when the Supreme Court, in 2013, struck down section 4 of the law that required states with a history of discriminatory practices (particularly towards African Americans) impeding people’s access to the ballot box to get federal permission in order to make changes in state voting laws. The Court’s decision sent shock waves throughout the black community and put us on notice that rights once won may not necessarily be secure. The debate over Gay Rights and Marriage Equality in Arizona permitted the state legislature to pass SB 1062, a law that would allow individuals or any legal entity to refuse service to any other individual based on their sexual orientation, claiming once again religious freedom. The Governor, under extreme and powerful community and Fortune 500 company protest, vetoed that legislation so it could not become law.
All of the above bring into sharp focus the number of challenges to civil rights, liberty and social justice agendas that have already been litigated, protested, fought on the battlefield of the Civil Rights Movement and yet, it’s a fight we fight over and over again. We are fighting right now to hold ground we thought we had already won! “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” was the battle cry of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The threat to justice and equality for ALL people could not be more evident than it is today. I caution folks of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual identities and beliefs to be less complacent, to engage in the dialogue and debate…. because the struggle definitely continues!
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Founder and Artistic Director
The Conciliation Project and
Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next Week: Spring and Renewal