Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

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When the Supreme Court handed down their decision in the Hobby Lobby case last week, they may not of thought about the backlash that would occur.

For better or for worse, past cases about religious exemption have turned on the right of individuals to opt out of laws that conflicted with their beliefs: like Quakers and the draft, or Native Americans and peyote.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was supposed to help protect groups like the Quackers and Native Americans. Justices with agendas have changed that, with thousands now calling for its repeal.

The Hobby Lobby decision now allows a person to impose their beliefs onto others, whether they share them or not, including allowing a corporation to act as a human being in a similar manner. What the decision does is bring up a host of questions that will have far-reaching implications in the future.

What if a private corporation has a religious objection to labor unions, based on its belief that all people should submit to godly authority without question? Would they be allowed to fire employees for attempting to organize?

  • What if a private corporation has a religious objection to parental leave, based on its belief that women who have babies should devote their lives to motherhood and homemaking? Would they be allowed to fire women for getting pregnant?
  • What if a private corporation has a religious objection to paid sick time, based on its belief that God will heal those who ask for it and that injury or disease is a proof of a sinful lack of faith? Would they be allowed to fire workers who got sick or got hurt on the job?

  • What if a private corporation has a religious objection to environmental laws, based on its belief that God gave us the Earth to use as we see fit? Would they be allowed to ignore laws regulating pollution or waste dumping?
  • What if a private corporation has a religious objection to minimum wage laws, based on its interpretation of Jesus’ parable of the vineyard? Would they be allowed to pay their workers as little as they choose?

What will happen when a Muslim corporation wants to institute Sharia Law onto its employees?

The ruling elevates the rights of a FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION over those of its women employees and opens the door to all manner of claims that a company can refuse services based on its owner’s religion. Think about the ramifications: As Justice Ginsberg’s stinging dissent pointed out, companies run by Scientologists could refuse to cover antidepressants, and those run by Jews or Hindus could refuse to cover medications derived from pigs (such as many anesthetics, intravenous fluids, or medications coated in gelatin).

In this case, the owners happen to be deeply Christian; one wonders whether the case would have come out differently if a Muslim-run chain business attempted to impose Sharia law on its employees.

Hobby Lobby are hypocrites. They didn’t have a problem with the emergency contraceptives Pan-B and Ella until 2012.

One huge problem with this situation is that up until 2012, Hobby Lobby provided them as part of their insurance plan. Only when they realized that Obamacare was going to mandate this coverage did they suddenly become interested in not providing these drugs.

How committed are they to protecting the unborn if they didn’t know or didn’t care to know what kind of insurance they were offering. Their retirement plan invests in contraceptive manufacturers.

Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k).

Several of the mutual funds in Hobby Lobby’s retirement plan have stock holdings in companies that manufacture the specific drugs and devices that the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, is fighting to keep out of Hobby Lobby’s health care policies: the emergency contraceptive pills Plan B and Ella, and copper and hormonal intrauterine devices.

All nine funds—which have assets of $73 million, or three-quarters of the Hobby Lobby retirement plan’s total assets—contained holdings that clashed with the Greens’ stated religious principles.

In their Supreme Court complaint, Hobby Lobby’s owners chronicle the many ways in which they avoid entanglements with objectionable companies. Hobby Lobby stores do not sell shot glasses, for example, and the Greens decline requests from beer distributors to back-haul beer on Hobby Lobby trucks.

Similar options exist for companies that want to practice what’s sometimes called faith-based investing. To avoid supporting companies that manufacture abortion drugs—or products such as alcohol or pornography—religious investors can turn to a cottage industry of mutual funds that screen out stocks that religious people might consider morally objectionable. The Timothy Plan and the Ave Maria Fund, for example, screen for companies that manufacture abortion drugs, support Planned Parenthood, or engage in embryonic stem cell research. Dan Hardt, a Kentucky financial planner who specializes in faith-based investing, says the performances of these funds are about the same as if they had not been screened. But Hobby Lobby’s managers either were not aware of these options or chose not to invest in them.

If your religious convictions are that great, why would you not seek out financial planning that supported your beliefs?

They are opposed to abortion, but only when it suits them. They continue to invest in China, where there is no religious freedom (they based their case on this), hundreds of workers die each day and where abortion is actually used as population control.

And what of China’s one-child policy, which disincentivizes having daughters to the point that it fuels an underground abortion industry? Data shows that 13 million abortions are performed in the country each year. About 35,000 infant lives are terminated in China every day, and 336 million abortions have taken place there over the last four decades. According to Steven Mosher of Population Research Institute, “most of those abortions have the character of a rape. That is, they were performed on women who were ordered, or even physically forced, to submit to the knife.”

Though China somewhat relaxed its controversial 35-year-old policy recently, Max Fisher of The Washington Post has noted that the policy still leads to forced abortions — in addition to sterilizations and infanticide — and always will.

There are huge implications in how the Supreme Court acted.

Beyond the contraception mandate, this case has huge implications for the country.  For instance, this is the first time the Court has ruled that a corporation – just like individuals – has a right to religious freedom.

According to this report, the Supreme Court decision is “huge” and effectively gives faith-based companies the right to discriminate against anyone they disapprove of.

Abortion coverage usually doesn’t mean a heck of a lot for gays and lesbians, but the decision sets a precedent that could do harm down the road for equal treatment in health insurance and discrimination by essentially declaring religious liberty to be superior to more secular concerns of employees.

Now that the Supreme Court has declared that corporations can have religious convictions, just like a person, the logical extension is that those same convictions could one day be justified in overruling well-established workplace non-discrimination laws.

Religious organizations have already petitioned the president to exempt them from hiring laws so they can discriminated against LGBT people.

Religious Exemption Letter to President Obama

A group of faith leaders is urging the Obama administration to include a religious exemption in a forthcoming LGBT anti-discrimination action.

Their call, in a letter sent to the White House Tuesday, attempts to capitalize on the Supreme Court case by arguing that it shows the administration must show more deference to the prerogatives of religion.

“We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need,” the letter states.

the administration announced it would issue an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a reform long sought by gay-rights groups. Such an order would essentially impose on contractors the provisions of the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the Senate but hasn’t been taken up by the House.

What about women who want contraceptives? Well, Justice Alito used a loophole that churches and charities use to get around that too.http://www.cato.org/blog/republic-gilead-not-night

The Department of Health and Human Services has already developed a way to exempt religious non-profit corporations—such as churches, charities, and hospitals—from the legal mandate to pay for employees’ contraception coverage.  In what amounts to an accounting trick, they permit those corporations to purchase plans without such coverage, and then require that insurance companies themselves independently provide it to the uncovered employees.  Because pregnancy is quite a bit more expensive than contraception, this apparently ends up not imposing any additional net cost on the insurers.  The result is that employees of religious non-profits end up with no-copay contraception coverage, exactly as if the employer were required to provide it directly, but the employers are satisfied by this ledger shuffling that they aren’t being compelled to violate their most deeply held moral convictions.

Just how much DHHS offers these contraceptives for varies. It could cost a woman hundreds of dollars a year, something a $14 an hour, full-time employee ($9 part-time) at Hobby Lobby isn’t going to be able to afford.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her scathing dissent to the 5-4 decision, “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” Indeed, IUDs — which are the most effective form of birth control and the method that doctors are increasingly recommending — can cost more than $1,000 out of pocket. Before the Affordable Care Act took effect and began guaranteeing women’s access to no-cost birth control, many women didn’t use IUDs because the up front costs were too expensive.

We already have clear evidence about how removing cost barriers to the IUD can change women’s lives. A large 2012 study focusing on low-income women in St. Louis found that when they were given the choice between the full range of birth control methods without being charged a co-pay — the same choice that Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate offers — more of them opted for IUDs. And after that, fewer of them experienced unintended pregnancies and fewer of them got abortions.

On the other hand, without access to affordable long-lasting birth control, poor women are much more likely to struggle to avoid becoming pregnant. The unintended pregnancy rate for women living below the poverty level is more than five times as high as the rate for the women in the highest income level. When low-income women are faced with unplanned pregnancies, they often end up slipping even further into poverty. Thanks to the increasing number of restrictions on abortion — after all, conservatives like Hobby Lobby don’t want insurance plans to cover it — impoverished women often can’t afford to end a pregnancy. And there isn’t exactly a social safety structure in place to make it easier for them to afford a child, either.

While you ponder what all this means, have a look at at PR video from Hobby Lobby, comments disabled. Also, a caution to the massive blinking from the woman. It might be best to listen to the video instead of watch it.

Holly Fisher also posted this picture of herself online. It’s been put side by side with another famous photo.

holly hobby lobby

The justices made a point of actually stating denial of coverage for blood transfusions was not protected, a direct jab at Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are saying their religious beliefs trump other religious beliefs.

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The Supreme Court, in its ruling has said they know the law doesn’t support their ruling, and it would fail under the 1st Amendment, but they’re doing it anyway and using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to justify their actions. Just don’t ever try to use the ruling in any other court case because we’re telling you that you can’t do that.

This case is a direct result of what happens when you tie healthcare to a job. Just remember contraceptives are bad for employees, but good for business.

Make no mistake, Hobby Lobby and the Green family are hypocrites and the Supreme Court just let them continue to be.

When did caring for your fellow human being become so screwed up in America?

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“PTSD was once thought to be something that was peculiar to Vietnam vets,” says Matt Warshauer, a history professor at Central Connecticut State University. ”We then figured out not surprisingly, that no, combat fatigue existed during World War II, shell shock existed during World War I, and Soldier’s Heart existed in the Civil War.”

There are many more books — now under lock and key — that Warshauer is eager to see. They’re about the size of a photo album and their covers, made of burlap and leather, have started to fall apart. Each contains the records of 325 or so patients and perhaps, of some Civil War veterans who walked across the lawns of the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane in the late 1800′s.

“They mean the motherlode,” Warshauer says. “Those are the books that we need.”

This past February, Warshauer thought he might soon have access to what he needed. Connecticut legislators drafted a bill, allowing the release of medical records 50 years after a patient’s death. But then, with backing from mental health advocates as well as the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, lawmakers inserted an amendment: all names would be redacted, or blacked out, making patient files of little use to historians.

Warshauer’s research is now at a standstill. He says one reason he’s not giving up is that he wants to help returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD understand they’re part of a long line of soldiers who have suffered.

“They’re the ones who told me you have no idea how important this work is, how important it is for us to be able to tell this story,” he adds.

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This week on Moyers & Company, a special report on a two-week, 185-mile trek through the winter cold in New Hampshire, led last month by constitutional scholar and activist Lawrence Lessig, to raise awareness of the crippling problem of corruption in American politics.

“If you think about every single important issue America has to address. If you’re on the right and you care about tax reform or addressing the issues of the deficit. On the left if you care about climate change or real health care reform. Whatever the issue is, if you look at the way our system functions right now you have to see that there will be no sensible reform given the way we fund campaigns,” Lessig says.

Inspired by Doris “Granny D” Haddock’s march across America, Lessig says his movement, New Hampshire Rebellion, is encouraging voters to ask all the presidential candidates who soon will be haunting the Granite State: How are you going to end the system of corruption in Washington?

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10/30/13 – Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) went head-to-head with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Wednesday afternoon over Republicans’ continued efforts to discredit President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Blitzer strained to figure out what the GOP’s next steps will be on the issue, especially if the website issues are resolved and enrollment picks up speed. “Do you want to try to make it better, to fix it, or do you just want to destroy it?” he asked. “What I want is the finest possible health care for America that we can have,” Bachmann insisted. “We did have fabulous health care, and I think we can again.”

At this point, Blitzer interrupted the congresswoman, reminding her that “a lot of people didn’t have fabulous health care. There were millions of people who had no health care.”

She responded that what President Obama is currently promoting is “fantasy health care” before listing off the various “promises” the president made that she believes he’s failed to keep. Bachmann then touted her “fiscal conservative” credentials by saying that rather than force insurance companies to cover patients with preexisting conditions, she would urge the Treasury Department to write a yearly $5 billion check to pay for those individuals.

Earlier in the interview, Bachmann contended that Obama “didn’t work with one Republican” when constructing the Affordable Care Act, a claim Blitzer disputed by emphasizing that “he tried, but the Republicans didn’t want to work with him, they didn’t like his ideas.”

Bachmann admitted that sooner or later, the HealthCare.gov website “will work,” adding, “f it doesn’t, it will be the laughingstock of America.” But, she said, “the bigger problem is a health care system that won’t work.”

When Blitzer showed her poll numbers that demonstrate that people “are beginning to like” the health care law a bit more, Bachmann rejected the data. “Not in my district, they aren’t,” she said. “People are upset about it.”

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Mina Kim, reporter for KQED News and Ryan Gabrielson, senior reporter at the Center for Investigative Reporting who led the investigation into this story join host Michael Krasny for this important story.

State regulators have been conducting “cursory and indifferent” investigations of complaints against caregivers for the elderly, disabled and sick, even when those cases involve suspected abuse or suspicious death, according to an investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED. Documents obtained by CIR also reveal the California Department of Public Health dismissed nearly 1,000 pending cases of abuse and theft over the past decade, when the state was dealing with a backlog of cases.

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