Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 1, Episode 9 - Burwell v. Hobby Lobby - full transcript

John Oliver sheds light on recent Supreme Court cases and discusses gay rights in Uganda with activist Pepe Julian Onziema.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
Welcome to "Last Week Tonight"!

I'm John Oliver. Thanks for being with us.

A quick recap of what happened this week.

It's basically been all about the World Cup.

The USA escaped the group of death.


However, England have been knocked out,

so this stupid tournament is now dead to me.


The games have been absolutely amazing all week,

although one incident in particular caught

everyone's attention.

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: It was the chomp

seen around the world.

Uruguay's Luis Suarez, one of
the top players in the world,

appears to take a bite out of
an Italian defender's shoulder.

Did he or didn't he?

Oh, he did.
Oh, he did.

He bit that human being.

And in his defense,
that is one delicious piece of

prime Italian steak
he's tucking into right there.

Incredibly, this is
actually the third time

that Suarez has done this.

If he bites 7 more people,
he gets a free person.

But Suarez--relax--Suarez
did not leave the World Cup

without also scoring the excuse
of the tournament.

MALE ANNOUNCER: Suarez insists
he didn't bite

Giorgio Chiellini, saying,
"I lost my balance,

making my body unstable and
falling on top of my opponent."

That makes
complete sense.

It's just like someone claiming
they ruined their diet because

they tripped and fell face-first
into an entire cheesecake.

Meanwhile, in a week
of horrible news

about terrorist incidents
around the world,

there was one unexpectedly
encouraging development.

You know, for months,
Nigeria's army

has been trying
to flush out

the Islamic sect
of Boko Haram

militants in hiding.

Well, now it appears

they're leaving

at least some of them.

According to
the Vanguard,

they're being driven
out of the forest

by snakes and bees.

What? Snakes and bees?

I never thought I'd say this,

but thank goodness for that
angry swarm of snakes and bees.

Thank you, snakes.
Thank you, bees.

The only way I could love
this story more would be

if those bees were actually
riding the snakes into battle.

On my signal, slither!


And by the way, I would like
to take a quick moment

to say,
what the fuck, scorpions?

Where the hell have you
been during all this?

A man shopping at a Walmart
in the south hills

got more than a bargain when he
went to reach for some bananas.

He got a pinch from a scorpion.

what is wrong with you?

Stop hiding in bananas
in Pittsburgh-area Walmarts.

Get your shit together and fight
terrorism like snakes and bees.

And finally--finally, Syria

remains in a state
of utter chaos.

But this week, the White House
finally issued

its most significant
action yet.

The White House
announced Thursday

it's seeking $500 million
from Congress

to aid moderate rebels
in Syria.

The aid will be used
to train and equip

appropriately vetted elements
of the moderate Syrian

armed opposition.

Hold on.
How exactly do you

appropriately vet
a rebel soldier?

Do you sit down with them
at a local Starbucks

and go over their resume?

Now, it says here that you
spent a year as an intern

for a Kurdish
freedom fighting movement.

Fascinating. Tell us a little
about that experience.

Look, there are 1,000 distinct
armed units in Syria,

and some of them
are horrifying.

So, if we are going to
recruit the right ones,

we need to do this properly.

a Syrian who is interested in

toppling your
country's government?

Are you certifiably
not a terrorist?

Do you promise you're
not a terrorist?

Because you have
to say if you are.

Then you might qualify to be
an appropriately vetted element

of the armed opposition.

Come be part of an exciting and
fast-paced work environment

where you'll work alongside
a dynamic team of people

who, like you, are hopefully,

definitely not terrorists.

You'll be provided benefits
packages that could include

standard-issue M16 rifles,

M249 light machine guns,

the hypothetical
chance of a stable

democratic state in Syria,

and maybe rocket launchers.

And for a limbed time,
this offer is also open

to bees and snakes.

So, sign up now.

Your future as an
appropriately-vetted element

starts today.

Tomorrow is scheduled
to be the last day

of the Supreme Court's
current term.

After that, the only two cases
they'll be considering

are pool noodle vs. pool noodle
and mouth vs. margarita.

But before they go, they've got
two decisions left to deliver,

including this one.

The biggest one we're waiting on
at this point is Hobby Lobby.

This is the challenge
to the administration's

HHS contraception mandate.

That's right.
Hobby Lobby,

America's one-stop source
for glitter and googly eyes,

could soon also be America's
leading source of landmark

binding legal precedents.

Hobby Lobby's owners say that Obamacare's
contraception mandate

conflicts with their
Christian faith,

which means the whole
case boils down

to one fundamental question.

Can a business,
a for-profit corporation,

claim it has
freedom of religion?

Do for-profit corporations
have religious rights?

Do corporations have
religious liberties

or do just individuals?

Are corporations a person able
to exercise religious rights?

No, no, they're not.
OK, we done?

Are we done here?
Are we done?

I feel like we're done.

Apparently we're not done,

because thanks to
the Citizens United ruling

in which corporations
were deemed to have

the same free speech
rights as people,

it is now a possibility they may
get religious rights as well

and if they do, it's
going to be pretty easy

to guess which
religions they'll choose.

Einstein Brothers?
Obviously Jewish.

Although they do sell bacon
and are open on Saturdays,

so let's say more culturally
Jewish than observant.

Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry's,
clearly Buddhist.

Although not too Buddhist, or
they'd be selling you pints of

cookies and nothingness.

And Taco Bell, I'm presuming,
is Hindu, because you know

there's no fucking beef
in those things.

But in the case of Hobby Lobby,
the company's founders

are the devoutly Christian
Green family.

And to be fair, their faith
has led them to do

some genuinely
admirable things.

We believe that the principles
that are taught scripturally

are what we should
operate our lives by,

and so it naturally flows over
into the business.

The company pays full-time

entry-level employees
90% above minimum wage

and devotes a very large
portion of its profits

to a broad array of charities.

Well, that's fantastic.

Although, I wouldn't
get on too high a horse

about the moral high ground
of your company,

given that a solid chunk of your
customer base are Etsy sellers

buying yarn to make handmade
cock-and-ball cozies

and teenagers purchasing
top-quality glue for huffing.

Oh, really, Bobby? You're into model airplanes,
are you?

Build one for me right now!

You can't, can you, boy?

You're killing your mother!

You're killing her, Bobby!

But here's the thing.
While Hobby Lobby's owners

are seemingly sincere
in their beliefs,

their sincerity isn't
really the point.

Just as it isn't the point
with the other company

which is also part
of this decision.

MALE ANNOUNCER: Conestoga Wood,
a company that makes

parts for kitchen cabinets,

is owned by a
Pennsylvania-based Hahn family.

They are Mennonites.

That's right.
In addition to Hobby Lobby,

the government
is also being sued

by Mennonites or, as I believe
they're called, the Diet Amish.

The Mennonites are
cabinet-making pacifists

who argue that they don't want
to pay for something

that could take a human life.

But under that logic,
that is why I

personally refuse to pay
for Mennonite cabinets,

because Jason Bourne
could, conceivably,

beat someone to death
with one of those things.

What these companies
are arguing

is that the sincerity of
their beliefs should allow them

a line item veto
over federal law.

But government is not
an a la carte system

where you can pick and choose
based on your beliefs.

Taxation is more of an
all-you-can-eat salad bar.

You don't get to show up
and go, "Look,

"I know it costs $10.99,
but I'm only paying $7.50

because I have a moral
objection to beets."

Because of course you do.

They're an abomination
of a root vegetable.

Their bland flavor
and slimy texture

is an affront unto the Lord.

And if you can persuade
enough people of that,

then you can have a referendum
to remove beets

from the salad bar
in the future.

But until such time, you're
paying for those fucking beets.

Because everyone has
their own version of beets.

I don't want
my tax dollars

paying for

I don't want my tax dollars
going in support

of this Israeli policy.

I don't want my tax dollars spent
to support this mosque.

I don't want my tax money being
used to buy illegal drugs.

running on a treadmill.

Not sure it's the best use
of my tax dollars right now.

I'm sure Pam in Kansas
doesn't want her tax dollar

spent on some of the things
that they're spending it,

Mexican prostitutes.

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.

OK. Look. I can see your point on the prostitution,

but those fat shrimp need help.

You think they like
being called jumbo?

They're crying inside.

If you really want to be treated
like a person,

corporations, then guess what?

Pay for things you don't like

is what it feels like
to be one.

In fact, if corporations
want to be people,

they should have to take
the rough with the smooth.

For a start, companies should
only get to have

the average lifespan
of a person--79 years.

75 if they're
based in Mississippi.

Oh, oh, and female companies,

you only get to make
83 cents on the dollar.

Sorry, Wendy, I guess
it's just that Burger King

must have worked harder.

And that's just the big stuff.

There's also the little
annoyances of being human,

so, Mr. Peanut, I hope
you enjoy attending

your friends' shitty
improv shows.

And Starbucks,
get ready to have

your name spelled
"Starburst" on your coffee cup.

And for G.M., who've admitted
some responsibility

for the deaths of a minimum of 13 people,

I've got some bad news for you.

People who do that
generally don't get off

with a fucking fine.

And now this.

politicians literally misusing

the word "literally."

The arrogance here is
literally breathtaking.

Why should any of us
attack children?

Literally take food out of
the mouths of children.

And literally had to
bludgeon and pummel them

into doing, not physically.

Literally went ballistic.

Literally howling.

Literally strangling.

Literally hanging
high and very dry.

Literally thank you.

And finally, finally tonight.

It was the gay pride parade
today in New York,

which capped a month--

which capped a great month
of significant advances

for marriage equality
in America.

House is granting new benefits

to same-sex couples, including
those who live in states

where gay marriage
is against the law.

To date, 19 states
and the District of Columbia

have legalized marriage quality
and the momentum continues.

That's right.
We are nearly halfway

to full nationwide
marriage equality,

which means it's
about to become

a question of which state
is going to be last.

Who could it
possibly be, Mississippi?

We don't know.
We don't know, Mississippi.

It could be
anyone, Mississippi.

Now, I know it's
a little premature,

but I do think this might be
one of those moments

where we're allowed to feel
great about this country.

Marriage equality is sweeping
the nation, and America did it!

Strike up the band!

Bring out the rock-n-roll George
Washington and the Americake!


I see no reason why this
feeling is ever going to end!

It's fantastic. Yes!

Ok, OK, OK.
Hold on.

Hold on. Hold on.
Hold on.

Because unfortunately,
this month has also brought

less good news from other countries.

There is great controversy
over the new UN

General Assembly

Uganda's Sam Kutesa
has been

elected to the largely
ceremonial role,

but thousands have signed a petition
against the appointment

because of Uganda's harsh laws
on homosexuality.

Yeah, calling Uganda's
laws harsh

doesn't really do them justice.

That's like calling Stalin
a bit of a grump,

or the Triangle Shirtwaist
Factory fire a whoopsie doo,

or the "Titanic"
a disappointing vacation.

Because let's take a moment
to remind ourselves

about what Uganda's laws
actually contain.

the president of Uganda

signed a sweeping
anti-gay bill into law.

It makes it illegal simply
to be gay in the country

and imposes harsh prison
sentences for offenders.

So, the moral arc
of the universe is long,

and it bends away from Uganda.

And the law isn't just putting
gays at risk of imprisonment.

Since it passed
the Ugandan legislature,

the number of recorded
acts of persecution

has increased between 750%
and 1900% from previous years.

It's gotten to the point where
people from the Dark Ages

could build a time machine,
travel to 2014 Uganda,

step outside and go,
"Ah, shit, it didn't work."

OK. Nice try.
Get back in.

Now, you might wonder
how can the UN

allow a representative of
the Ugandan government,

which has also been
accused of corruption

and the brutal suppression
of dissent,

to be in charge of their
general assembly?

chosen without a vote.

The selection is done
on geographical rotation

and African countries
had already agreed

he'd be their candidate.

Oh, that's fine, then.
So, it's just their turn.

Essentially, the UN
apparently works

according to the same principle
as family movie night where,

even if your little sister picks "My Little Pony: Friendship is
Magic Princess Twilight Sparkle"

for the third time,
you have to watch it

because it's her fucking turn.

The fact that,
in the 21st century,

81 countries have laws
outlawing homosexuality

is incredibly depressing.

Although, in a way,

it shows how lucky
we are to live here.

Because remember, when it comes
to advances in marriage quality,

America did it!

Am I right, cheerleaders?

Yes, my dancing Lincoln is here!

This exuberance is never
going to blow up in our face!

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!


Oh, this feels so good.

Just out of interest,

where did Uganda get the idea

to come up with
such hateful laws?

MALE ANNOUNCER: Uganda has had
laws against homosexuality

for virtually
all the past century.

They were introduced in
the old British colonial days.

Whoopsie daisy.

I've gotta be honest--
being British is sometimes

a little like being an alcoholic.

When someone says you did
something awful,

you find yourself
going, "Honestly,

"I don't even
remember doing that,

"but yeah, probably, probably.

"I'm a dick.
I'm a dick.

What do you want me to say?"

OK. So, fundamentally, it's
the British people's fault.

But, you know,
I live in America now,

so, I've still got a
pretty warm feeling inside me,

unless someone is about
to take that away from me.

gay rights activists say,

is that it was a small group
of American evangelicals

who came to Uganda speaking out
against homosexuality,

which was already illegal,

that really took the persecution
of the LGBT community

to a new level.

Wait, so what you're
essentially saying is,

America did this?

No! No! No!

Get back in that cake!

Get back in that cake
and get out of here!

All of you, get out of here and
think about what you've done!

Shame on you!
Shame on you!

Shame on you!
Shame on you!


So, it turns out American
anti-gay activists

were in Uganda in the run-up
to the passage of the law.

And let's meet
just one of them.

Scott Lively.
Now, if that name rings a bell,

you may know him as one of
those far-right Christians

who go on TV
and say things like this.

I think Mr. Obama may well be
a homosexual himself.

Hey, hey, hey, hey,
that's clearly wrong.

It's not Mr. Obama,
it's President Obama.

President Obama is a homosexual.
Get it right.

Have some respect.

Now, if you live
in Massachusetts,

you may also know Scott Lively
as that crazy guy

currently running for governor,

and who's attempting
to take back

the symbol of the rainbow from
the gays by promoting this song.

WOMAN: The rainbow
belongs to God

Untouched by evil desire

Whoa. Whoa.

I feel like if Kermit
ever heard that song,

he would immediately insist on
one fewer songs about rainbows.

Look, Scott Lively
is clearly an idiot.

And luckily, over here,
we just get to laugh at him.

You are never going
to stop AIDS

until you stop treating

homosexual sodomy
as a civil right

and start treating it as
a form of conduct to avoid.

The guy's material
is killing out there.

What's up with how HIV's only transmittable between
homosexuals, huh?

Is this on? Huh? Huh?

This guy knows what
I'm talking about.

Unfortunately, though,
in Uganda,

it is a very different story.

MAN: In America, he's a nobody.

But in Africa, this extremist
guy becomes this spokesperson

and is able to address the entire parliament

for 5 hours.

I don't know what's
more shocking there,

that he addressed
the parliament at all

or that he did it for 5 hours.

Because listen, if your hard-on
for homophobia lasts 5 hours,

you need to seek
medical attention.

And he didn't just stop there.

Scott Lively spoke
on Ugandan TV

and gave seminars attended by
Ugandan government officials.

And here is where Scott Lively

is about to get
considerably less funny.

Increasingly, lesbians are
being molested by other women.

It's actually becoming
more and more common

in the United States.

How dare you say
that homosexuality

and pedophilia are equated?

Well, they are equated.

They have very little
sense of mercy.

The Rwandan stuff
probably involved these guys.

These were the Nazis.
The Nazis.

It's like he just ate
the most offensive package

of magnetic poetry
and then vomited it

all over his audience.

And then later that year,

Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill
was introduced,

and for the record, Lively says
he doesn't approve of it

and disclaims any
influence over it.

I do not support
and never did support

the harsh penalties in terms of long
prison sentences.

I don't believe in that.
I never have.

No, of course not. You are simply saying,
look, guys,

gay people are dangerous
insidious Nazis.

Do with that information
what you will.

Lively out.
Lively out.

Why back off now, Scott?
Own it!

If God hates gays as much
as you think he does,

he's going to be
pretty pissed at you

for not seeing
this thing through.

And it's not just Scott Lively.

One of Uganda's most prominent
anti-gay preachers

is a pastor named
Martin Ssempa.

Let's listen in on
one of his lovely sermons.

I've gotta say,
for an anti-gay pastor,

that man clearly had very quick
access to a lot of fetish porn.

Very swift, just
oh, there we go.

Martin Ssempa is not American.
He has in the past, however,

received funding from the Canyon Ridge Christian
Church in Las Vegas

and the U.S. government, which
allocated his organization

$40,000 for
abstinence education,

which he presumably
responsibly spent on gay porn

to show during sermons.

But if you want
a single sound bite

that sums up
the depressing scale

of the American
cultural influence

on Ugandan homophobia,
it is this.

In the beginning, it was Adam
and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

Yeah. That's not
a Uganda saying.

Let me give you 3 names that are
not especially common in Africa:

Adam, Eve, and Steve.

So, clearly, U.S. groups

recognized the market for homophobia stateside
was dwindling,

and so tried to sell it
somewhere else,

meaning that Africa isn't
just where we send our

losing team's
Super Bowl shirts,

it's also where we now send our losing
political philosophies.

And although the U.S.
is now issuing sanctions

in reaction to these laws,

this is clearly a problem
that Uganda is going

to have to solve itself.

And here we may have
one small glimmer of hope,

because in researching
this story, we found a clip

of an interview on
a Ugandan morning show

with a transgender
human rights activist

named Pepe Julian Onziema.

Pepe Julian Onziema,
thank you for coming in.

Good morning.
Why are you gay?

Whoa. OK, so, we're just
jumping straight into it then.

No warmup question there.
Straight into it.

And that set the tone
for that activist's

hour-long marathon
of restraint.

Don't you think
gays, homosexuals,


should instantly
be reoriented

other than receiving this kind
of recognition,

because society seems to deem them
as unnatural,

as people who are,
may be lost.

Simon, you are sitting
with me right now.

How unnatural is that?

Well, it's natural, but I'm
just baffled.

Baffled? Yeah,
but that's the point.

If you're baffled by something,
you don't automatically

throw it in jail.

Otherwise, American prisons

would be full of
Keurig coffee machines.

Wait. Is it water first,
then the cup?

Do you take the lid off?

Somebody put this witchcraft
behind bars!

It's wrong!
It's morally wrong!

I'm frightened!

But to his true credit,
Pepe Onziema

somehow kept his cool
the whole time.

Why do you recruit
young boys and girls

into this gay activism?

There is no such thing
as recruitment

of young people or adults
or anything like that.

What is recruitment,
first of all?

When you ask me
about recruitment,

what do you mean
by recruitment?

I mean trying to put
them into your system,

teaching them what to do,
how to go about it.

We do not do that.

How does a human being maintain
that level of composure

and say, "We do not do that"
rather than

"What the fuck
is wrong with you?"

And it got even worse.
It got even worse

when they were joined by
none other than Martin Ssempa,

who turned up with
a bag full of vegetables

and a lot of questions.

They begin to use
gadgets like bananas.

They use carrots.
They use bananas.

They use cucumbers.

And add
the metalized ones.

And they put them
inside themselves.

These are the
instruments you use.

These are vegetables.


I eat this
on my plate.

Pepe Onziema is
the Gandhi of Uganda.

He's U-Gandhi.

And I am truly honored to say

that he is actually
joining us here this evening.

Please welcome
Pepe Julian Onziema.

Please, please.


Thank you so,
so much for being here.

I guess my first
question has to be,

why are you gay?

No. No.

So, I just got that's
how all interviews

in Uganda started.

The key question is,
do you think

this law
would have happened

if it were not for
U.S. interference?

The answer is no.
It wouldn't have happened

if it wasn't for
U.S. influence.

Why I say that is
for very many years,

we've had
a penal code,

and we've done research
to find out

how many people have been
actually convicted

under the penal code
that we have.

And there's probably
just one case,

and the person did not
serve the sentence.

So, no.

But it's not about--
it's not about

whether the laws are
enacted, is it?

It's about
the incitement

of the hatred
around it.

In many ways, that can
do more physical damage

than the threat
of jail terms.


Of course, with
the penal code,

many of us have suffered
under the penal--

you know,
just the way it is

presented to
the public,

many of us have suffered
from evictions,

beatings on the street, arbitrary arrests,
and so on.

However, that increased,

it changed
with your influence.

Oh, you're from
somewhere else.

Oh, I'm the double down.
You know,

I sowed that seed
as a British person

and now as someone
who lives in America,

I fertilized the fuck
out of that seed.

So, you're welcome, and
sorry on both counts.

Sorry doesn't cut it.

I love the fact
that we have just seen

incredible restraint
during that interview,

and it's with me
that you're going,

"Yeah, you need to say
fucking sorry."

So, so, are you
safe in Uganda?

I'm guessing the answer
to that is not really.

Is that true?

Not really.
I'm not exactly safe.

But to a certain extent
I'm safe

because I stand my ground,

that I'm not going
to change under fear.

I'm not going to run away
from the country.

And the fact that
you guys know about me

is a form of
protection for me.

I look over my
shoulder every day.

But there's not a place
I'd rather be than be there

and make sure that
the safety I need

actually happens
in the country.

That's just--I cannot
tell you how much--

I can't
tell you how much

I thank you
for being here

and how much I admire you for going
back to Uganda.

Can I drink some water?

Go for it.
Do you mind--

do you mind
sticking around

and we'll talk more on the web?
Is that OK?

That would be great.

If you want to watch an extended
interview of this online,

please go down here.

My huge thanks to
Pepe Julian Onziema.

Have a great week.
We're off next week,

but we're back in two weeks.

Have a great week.
Good night!