Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has never met a dubious legal argument he won’t commit Ohio to defend. He even goes out of his way to join in cases where Ohio has no compelling interest to go.

The most recent example is the amicus brief he wrote on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga. In fact he’s listed as lead attorney for the 19 other GOP-led states that have joined to protect the conservative religious liberty of persecuted corporations.

Like his fight to prevent a married gay couple from having a spouse listed on a death certificate, DeWine seems to have a tendency to fight with spurious legal theories all the way to SCOTUS if necessary.  He also tends to get smacked down after a major investment of Ohio taxpayer money.

In his Friend of The Court brief for Hobby Lobby, DeWine jumps in parroting the questionable legal positions put forth by the plaintiffs and conservative groups hoping to gut the Affordable Care Act by introducing chaos disguised as religious liberty.

The very idea that corporations have religious beliefs that can be infringed upon is an argument should have been tossed as a frivolous suit.

Corporations are a legal construct designed to separate the owners (shareholders) from liability, allowing the corporation to stand alone as an entity. To accept that the owner’s religious views are shared by the corporation allows that shield to be pierced, enabling exemption from laws that govern their competitors while providing an unfair advantage. It could open the door to demands for religious exemption to nearly any law or regulation that affects corporate America.

Religious belief in America is a will o’ the wisp. Any law could conceivably conflict with some of the more, shall we say, creative interpretations of scripture. After all the Bible was used as justification for slavery, interracial marriage bans, separation of the races and nearly any other reprehensible action enacted into law over the last couple of centuries.

AG DeWine is either missing a salient point or willfully ignoring it. In an interview with WKYC-TV in Cleveland,  he repeatedly states that this is not about birth control but, in the eyes and beliefs of Hobby Lobby, it’s about abortion. This says that religious objections need not be based on actual facts (like: contraception is not abortion) but a belief those facts are irrelevant. It proposes that belief trumps reality and that should exempt them from the rule of law.

A dangerous precedent indeed. It will enable any corporation to refuse to obey a law it finds disagrees with their “religious belief”. Since the Bible gives humans dominion over the Earth, would environmental laws be a burden for a God given right to rape and pillage the eco system? Could a religious corporation refuse to offer birth control to unmarried women because they believe they should be chaste? Could they refuse to offer health care to married women because the husband is the God-ordained provider to the family? Perhaps women could be just denied employment since their place is in the home tending the hearth?

It’s easy to see that chaos will result as nearly any secular aspect of law can be construed as an attack on religious liberty. And it seems the only religious liberty that is vigorously defended is conservative, evangelical, fringe liberties.

As usual DeWine uses hot button issues to play to his base and friends (contributors). This contorted legal stance surely won’t hurt his standing with Mike Gonadakis and Ohio Right To Life.

As it is, DeWine uses the office of Attorney General to promote GOP/Tea Party positions even when the case is a loser. After all, it’s not about justice, it’s about campaign literature and sound bites. And we pay for the privilege.

 

 

 

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