Crossposted at DemocraticDiva.com
Per Ian Millhiser:
Citing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court’s decision last June holding that the religious objections of a business’ owners could trump federal rules requiring that business to include birth control coverage in its health plan, a federal judge in Utah held last week that a member of a polygamist religious sect could refuse to testify in a federal investigation into alleged violations of child labor laws because he objects to testifying on religious grounds…
…The federal child labor investigation arose from a CNN report investigating claims that Jeffs “ordered all schools closed for a week so children could go to work picking pecans off trees at a private ranch” in Utah. The report included video of “hundreds of children, many of them very small” working on the ranch. When the reporters arrived, CNN also caught video of the FLDS children fleeing the cameras.
Yet, according to an order signed by Judge David Sam, a Reagan appointee to a trial court in Utah, the federal officials investigating this alleged violation of child labor laws will not be able to require an FLDS member named Vernon Steed to provide information that could aid the investigation because Steed objects to giving certain testimony on religious grounds. Steed claims that he’s made “religious vows ‘not to discuss matters related to the internal affairs or organization of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’” According to Judge Sam’s opinion, that’s enough to exempt him from providing the testimony he does not want to give.
A couple of things here: It’s possible that Sam’s ruling will be overturned if a higher court adheres to the Hobby Lobby v Burwell “narrowly tailored ruling” standard (translation: “This is strictly about the sluts!” “Also, too, only the religions we like”) so don’t be getting your schadenfreude going just yet. Still, this does show that opening the door to religious discrimination means that others will want to go through it and will be willing to tie up the courts for years, if need be. The other thing is that I warned everyone that the ruling didn’t just apply to bosses and business owners. It can be asserted by anyone – an employee, a student, in this case a witness to a child labor abuse case – who thinks that their “religious freedom” is being infringed by having to do anything they don’t want, which includes things that serve a legitimate public interest. Such as not forcing small children to work in fields.
This brings me to Arizona, and our upcoming statewide elections. A lot of Republicans here thought the Hobby Lobby decision was just ducky, including candidate for Governor Doug Ducey (R) and Attorney General candidate NOT Tom Horne aka Mark Brnovich (R). Secretary of State candidate Michele Reagan voted for the legislative version of Hobby Lobby, SB1062, back in March, as did all but three Republican legislators. Many of those legislators are up for reelection. Back when they were having hearings about SB1062, Republican lawmakers chortled at the many scenarios Democrats (rightly) raised about where the law could go. One Republican called them “goofy hypotheticals”. Well, it appears those zany FLDSers have proven us right, Republicans.
This case was in Utah but FDLS has a big presence in this state too, and they are subjecting children to the same kind of horrors. But Ducey, Brnovich, Reagan, and a host of Republican incumbents and candidates for state legislature think it’s super important to let bosses pry into women’s private lives and businesses be able to deny service to LGBT citizens and have refused to trouble their beautiful minds over the possible unintended consequences. Then again, it’s likely that a lot of them consider things like child abuse to be a feature, not a bug.