Hobby Lobby: Forget "Muslim Company / Sharia Law"; what about Jewish companies imposing Niddah Law?
2018 MIDTERM ELECTION
Time: D H M S
Since the SCOTUS's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, a lot of people have been pointing out the Pandora's Box that this could potentially open for company owners to start violating civil rights laws willy-nilly, all based on whatever their particular flavor of religion happens to be.
The most commonly used example (one I've used myself) is "What if a Muslim Company Used the 'Hobby Lobby' Decision to Impose Its Values on White Christians?"
How would conservatives and their agents respond if a company with Islamic beliefs (however defined) decided to impose its religious values on white, Christian, American employees?
Sharia hysteria would spread in such a way as to make the present day-to-day Islamophobia of the Right-wing echo chamber appear benign and muted by comparison.
What if a Black cultural nationalist organization such as the Nation of Islam or the Black Israelites claimed that they possessed a "religious freedom" to actively discriminate against white people in the workplace or elsewhere?
The White Right would explode with claims of "reverse discrimination" and "black racism".
I agree with this analysis completely, and using the "Muslim Sharia Law" example is a pretty obvious one given mainstream America's continuing distrust of all things Muslim-ish.
However, I'm also starting to find it a bit troubling to keep rhetorically beating up on the Muslims, even if we're doing so to make a larger point about the hypocrisy of a Christian-centric mindset. I find it doubly troubling given that I happen to be Jewish myself. So, instead, let's take a look at a potential landmine right here in my own religion: Niddah.
"a Hebrew term describing a woman during menstruation, or a woman who has menstruated and not yet completed the associated requirement of immersion in amikveh (ritual bath).
In Leviticus, the Torah prohibits sexual intercourse with a niddahand the prohibition has been maintained in traditional Jewish law. The laws concerning niddah are also referred to as taharath hamishpacha (טהרת המשפחה, Hebrew for family purity).
There's obviously a lot more detail, but you get the gist of it: Niddah law delves directly into all things dealing with female physiology, in particular menstruation, pregnancy and so forth. Here's the key point I want to focus on:
As with most of the arayot (Biblically forbidden sexual relationships), all physical contact "Derech Chiba v'Taavah" (in an affectionate or lustful manner) is rabbinically forbidden when a woman is in her niddah status.
Here's the punchline, though:
Such contact is forbidden whether or not the man and woman are husband and wife.
Huh...well, now. There's obviously no way of "proving" whether a particular physical contact is meant in "an affectionate or lustful manner"...that is, "lustful" falls under the category of sexual harrassment laws, I suppose, but "affectionate"? "Affection" simply means "liking the other person", which can range from finding them to be a nice person to a good friend or even holding a secret crush on them (never acted upon).
So, if I'm understanding this correctly, it seems to me that if I, as a Jew, was an owner of a "closely held" corporation, and I followed the strict interpretation of the Laws of Niddah, I should be able, using the SCOTUS's logic, to require all female employees to either:
a) Publicly post their menstrual cycles on the company bulletin board (including any variances) every month for all male employees to see, so that they know to steer clear; and/or
b) Cover their entire bodies from head to toe in some form of garment, to avoid even the slightest possibility of physical contact. There's a word for such a garment; it's on the tip of my tongue...
Here's some more info on the Laws of Niddah, if you're so interested.
UPDATE: I've been informed by several sources (including Acolyte1 in the comments below) that the actual practice of niddah law only applies to the Orthodox Jewish person themselves; they would basically just avoid touching any women at the workplace (which is generally a good idea anyway, from a sexual harrassment liability POV).
However, this only goes to strengthen my point: In this scenario, the owner of the company isn't pushing their own religious beliefs upon their employees. By the same token, no one is requiring the owners of Hobby Lobby to use an IUD themselves. Paying for an employee's healthcare policy, which happens to include coverage of the purchase of a legal medical product which may or may not actually be used by the employee is hardly the same thing as being required to use that product yourself.
Furthermore, this also furthers the point that religious beliefs can be whatever the hell someone claims them to be.
Fine, until today, the tenets of niddah law don't require anyone else to avoid contact with women...but what if one particular sect of ultra-Orthodox decided that it does apply to anyone who works for them? After all, there was a time when Jewish law forbid (or at least strongly frowned upon) organ donation, but in recent years that view has changed. Religious law doesn't operate in a vacuum.
Look at the laws of Kashrut (kosher food). Some Jews have a very strict interpretation, to the point of keeping separate sets of dishes for meat and dairy products. Some, like myself, simply avoid pork and shellfish. Some eat shellfish but not pork. And some become either more or less strict as they get older.
In short, how do you "prove" what someone's personal beliefs and convictions are?