Online Opinion Outpost: July 8


The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.

Hobby Lobby ruling

Erin Mersino, USA Today

When it comes to issues of religion in our country, we expect two things from our government: tolerance and evenhanded justice. The contraception mandate never came close to satisfying either.

First, the mandate was intolerant of certain religious views. It required company owners to violate their faith and provide abortion-causing drugs to their employees.

The mandate imposed multimillion-dollar IRS fines for noncompliance.

Second, the mandate was not evenhanded or uniform. It did not apply to every business owner, but instead included numerous exemptions for arbitrary reasons.

So why force business owners to comply when this is a matter of faith?

Sandra Fluke, Washington Post

Today, the Court ruled that such corporations have religious rights under federal statute, just as individuals do. Corporations are not people.

The court framed its decision as one of limited scope, applying it only to the contraception requirement and basing it upon a specific federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, rather than the First Amendment.

In the area of health care alone, the court’s decision allows companies to deny coverage of numerous health-care services. The majority opinion barely addresses this concern. Why is birth control — an uncontroversial form of care used by an astonishing number of women — different from blood transfusions and vaccines, which many individuals have religious objections to? The fact is, it’s not.

Facebook contagion

Jaron Lanier, New York Times

Should we worry that technology companies can secretly influence our emotions? Apparently so.

A study recently published by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, Cornell and Facebook suggests that social networks can manipulate the emotions of their users by tweaking what is allowed into a user’s news feed. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, changed the news feeds delivered to almost 700,000 people for a week without getting their consent to be studied. Some got feeds with more sad news, others received more happy news.

The researchers were studying claims that Facebook could make us feel unhappy by creating unrealistic expectations of how good life should be. But it turned out that some subjects were depressed when the good news in their feed was suppressed.

The researchers claim that they have proved that “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.”

The principle of informed consent in the age of social networking can’t be limited to individuals who are studied; the public has every right to be informed of otherwise undetectable commercial or political practices that are made possible by the results of research into high-tech manipulation, and to choose whether to give consent.

Major step back for Israel and Palestine

Frida Ghitis, CNN

The people who killed three Israeli teenagers have hurt the Israeli people deeply, there’s no doubt about that. But they have also harmed Palestinians, and they have hurt the cause of peace.

Israelis today are consumed with grief, but they are watching how the world reacts. They are watching how Palestinians react.

Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier that “many indications point to Hamas involvement,” noting that Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by many countries, has used kidnappings in the past.

To his great credit, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the kidnapping.

The only way this tragedy could be turned into a positive step would be if the Palestinians who support reconciliation, who are outraged by what happened, would speak out loudly against it.

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