Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is, in my view, clearly erroneous. With my colleagues at Family Research Council, I applaud the majority opinion as fully consistent with the requirements of religious liberty and the needs of women.
So, how does one get away with treating Supreme Court justices in a manner which would get any child reprimanded in elementary school? You couch your insult with humor, and engage on a politically correct topic.
The biggest question surrounding the recent song by Song A Day’s Jonathan Mann putting Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in the Hobby Lobby case to music -- and in which he refers to the justices in the majority as “slut-shaming geezers” -- is why no one is bothered enough by such slandering and disrespecting of Supreme Court justices to say anything. But it is what it is: Shameful.
What’s the point of these antics? Who knows . . . . Perhaps it’s because the writer doesn’t care to read what the decision says. Perhaps he thinks it’s more fun to mock its authors. Perhaps he does understand the decision and realizes he can’t attack the reasoning so, in a cowardly move, he attacks the authors’ integrity. Perhaps he does understand the decision but realizes he won’t acquire fame with a reasoned response so he adds incendiary words to his song. Or, perhaps, he knows he will only get people to listen to him if he adds shock value -- thus he mocks justices and a decision which actually has inherent meaning he’s not bothering to understand.
There is nothing wrong with putting Justice Ginsburg’s dissent to music. The interaction of the Court with the public, although generally that of a more formal nature, can bear the casual manifestation of a song. In fact, some have shown the ability to tastefully depict the clash of ideas at work in Supreme Court rulings in formats including even opera. But what is harmful to the Court is a cultural attitude that dismisses the Court’s work by mere insults -- without any basis in truth or basic comprehension of the legal principles at issue. Jonathan Mann makes his living as an entertainer, an entertainer who touts his ability to take “large amounts of complicated ideas and very quickly [transform] them into a hilarious, hummable and memorable song.” Here, he’s not bothered to even acknowledge the “complicated ideas” under question -- he’s simply resorted to name calling. The Court and our country can bear lighthearted whimsy. What they can’t bear are baseless insults like this -- insults, moreover, which aren’t even true.
Need we call to mind that the only thing the families behind Hobby Lobby and Conestoga ever objected to was 4 out of 20 methods of birth control they were being forced to provide, on the belief these 4 killed little babies in the womb? Yet according to Jonathan Mann, many “sluts” have been “shamed” when the justices ruled that women still must receive these 4 types of birth control. Wait, what? Yes, the justices ruled women still are to receive all their contraceptives -- the government just has to provide them in a way that does not force employers with religious objections to violate their consciences by playing a part in what they view to be evil. Yes, of course, it is very obvious to see that many “sluts” were “shamed” with this ruling . . . .
Maybe one day if a justice (it would have to be one of the older male justices) was caught outside of the court rebuking a young woman for sleeping around too much -- maybe then, he could accurately be called a “slut shaming geezer.” Even then, I’m not sure such antics would be called for. But they are hardly called for when any reading of the opinion does not justify such antagonism.
There are plenty of high court opinions I disagree with, but none over which I would attack the justices’ character. I can’t remember the last time someone mocked a liberal Supreme Court justice in this way. Yet if they did, it would be equally uncalled-for.
In the end, the name-calling (inaccurate at that) is symptomatic of a larger issue -- the inability of many Americans to accurately engage on public issues and play a role in our experiment in democracy. As public engagement and living side by side in toleration of different views gives way to name-calling aimed at conformity to what is politically correct, the gears of our nation will grind to a halt. And we will all suffer for it.
Attacks and slander like that of Jonathan Mann may or may not be legal. But it is certainly shameful. People of integrity on all sides of these issues need to call this out when they see it.
We would call upon all, including those opposed to the Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby, to denounce such baseless attacks. It would be appropriate for Justice Ginsburg to make clear she does not support such sentiments. All Americans, though they reasonably disagree on issues such as the Court faced here, should be united in opposition to Jonathan Mann’s slanderous words.