July 9, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 28

Dr. Wes

Summer is here and the Supreme Court is crazy from the heat. Time for a big ol’ helping of Sherbert

By Dr. Wes Browning

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Please tell me the Supreme Court will be taking a long rest soon. I can’t take much more of this.

After the Hobby Lobby decision I saw more ridicule heaped on SCOTUS than I have seen in 20 years put together. Everybody had some snarky comment to make, and I knew I would also have to talk about it, and I would have nothing new to say by the time I was going to be able to say something.

Let’s review what this is about. It’s about the Sherbert Test. I’m not making that name up.

In 1963 the Supreme Court ruled on a case concerning an Adell Sherbert, who was a Seventh-Day Adventist who refused to work her job on Saturdays, got fired, and was denied unemployment compensation on the grounds that she had refused work.

The Supreme Court decided 7-2 that the state government placed an undue burden on Sherbert’s exercise of her freedom, even though the rule that she broke was generally applicable to all and did not specifically target her religion. The fine points of the reasoning became the Sherbert Test. Note that the Sherbert Test was designed to protect an individual. It was about an individual’s exercise of religious freedom.

The Supreme Court went on to more or less erode its own test during the next three decades. Congress resurrected the Sherbert Test by enshrining it in law in 1993 as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That act contains the language, “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”

A “person’s” exercise, it says.

So, here we go again. Hobby Lobby is a privately owned corporation. It’s not an individual. It has by virtue of its corporation more power, due to its collective nature, than any individual employee. It is not the equivalent of a person in respect to the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, you stupid moron, Samuel Alito.

I was gritting my teeth and reciting that last part out loud as I wrote it, and now my own wife is needling me from the peanut gallery. “Isn’t ‘stupid’, ‘moron’, and ‘Alito’ highly redundant?” said the lovely Anitra “Let’s Get Rid of All Our ‘Ands’ When We Write” Freeman.

These sorts of things remind me how much I love surrealism, and of my pride in being a surrealist. Surrealism is my religion and I am my own shaman. I think the new ruling will work great for me and my people. I’m truly psyched.

In Surrealism, or I should call it Surrealisticism, which is essentially a Stone Age religion, when we have to decide what we ought to do we don’t consult scripture or a learned priest. Instead the shaman, or “designated surrealisticist,” takes a nap or goes into a trance or takes a weird walk in the woods, and when he or she returns, presents a solution, which usually involves fish.

For example, I am on a couple of committees here at Real Change, which are tasked with deciding various policies. When I am personally called upon to provide input, it usually ends up taking the form of “fish,” in some manner or fashion. Sometimes I am more specific, like, one day it was “halibut.” Occasionally my recommendations are relatively elaborate, as when I recommended, “Six broiled eel shall be upon our waists; a fire about our necks; scallops in the fourth house; ceviche.”

Actually it’s all very Bible-esque if you take it the right way, and I’m sure the courts will take it the right way, having been shown how to do so by Alito and friends.

Of course, being my own priest and shaman, I’m the only one who knows what the command “Go forth and ceviche but do not spare the grill” means. But there again, the Supreme Court has shown the way. No one needs to make sense anymore.






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