Quantcast

Hobby Lobby Eco-Fallout: Does Fracking Violate My Religious Freedom?

The fallout from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has only begun, but I think Justice Ginsburg’s dissent wraps up a lot of progressive feelings when she says the decision’s “startling breadth” allows companies to “opt out of any law they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” She goes on to discuss how this decision could impact non-Christian religions and how each might construe what they could opt out of—“blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others.).”

In my opinion, this Supreme Court decision appears to stem from a broad sense of deplorable misogyny in popular religions and American culture, and I absolutely oppose this decision.

But I also wonder if the decision contains a tangled, twisted eco-upside?

It is certainly true that all religions—western, eastern, otherwise—contain much eco-centric teachings and values. Many are, after all, modeled on the ancient “sun worship” cultures and it’s no coincidence that many Christian and non-Christian holidays fall on or around the solstice and equinox.

And so, if I worship the sun or the Earth or all species on the planet, do I have to abide by laws that violate my religion? 

By granting immunity from federal laws due to religious preference, the Supreme Court has cracked open a door that may not be easily shut.

Consider some speculative, but potential real-world lawsuits:

  1. You’re an Earth-worshipping pagan, you own a “closely held” corporation, and your corporation’s only choice of water comes from a massive dam and reservoir run by a government-owned utility. Can you sue that utility for violating your religious freedom and force it to provide you with water from a less environmentally damaging source?
  2. Your Earth-worshipping corporation is in an inner city, you have no way of generating your own solar electricity, and your utility requires that you get electricity generated from fracked-gas. Can you sue that utility and force it to provide you with clean energy that does not rely on fracking?  
  3. Or how about something closer to the Obamacare point: Your Earth-worshipping corporation supports animal rights, veganism and decries pharmaceutical experiments on animals. Can you sue to force Obamacare to provide you with animal-friendly medicine?

The list could go on and on.

In my line of work as an advocate for the environment, I’ve been called all sorts of names saying I’m some kind of fanatic for the Earth. Further, in the popular media, folks who rail against environmentalists often say we have elevated environmentalism to a kind of religion.

If so, has the Supreme Court now given us the opportunity to fight against the government’s intrusion in our lives because it violates our religion?

I absolutely oppose the deplorable Hobby Lobby decision. And now it’s the law of the land. 

Do I now have to abide by fracking laws that violate my religion?

Gary Wockner, PhD, is an environmental advocate and writer based in Fort Collins, CO.

 

Sponsored
Teenager Alex Weber and friends collected nearly 40,000 golf balls hit into the ocean from a handful of California golf courses. Alex Weber / CC BY-ND

By Matthew Savoca

Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.

As a scientist researching marine plastic pollution, I thought I had seen a lot. Then, early in 2017, I heard from Alex Weber, a junior at Carmel High School in California.

Read More Show Less
Southwest Greenland had the most consistent ice loss from 2003 to 2012. Eqalugaarsuit, Ostgronland, Greenland on Aug. 1, 2018. Rob Oo / CC BY 2.0

Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.

"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Read More Show Less
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Read More Show Less
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Read More Show Less
An adult bush dog, part of a captive breeding program. Hudson Garcia

By Jason Bittel

Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.

Read More Show Less
Great white shark. Elias Levy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By now you might have seen Ocean Ramsey's rare and jaw-dropping encounter with a great white shark in waters near Oahu, Hawaii.

Ramsey, a marine biologist, said on the TODAY Show that it was "absolutely breathtaking and heart-melting" to be approached by the massive marine mammal.

Read More Show Less