SCOTUS: Hobby Lobby and religious liberty prevail
    June 30 2014 by Biblical Recorder staff

    In a narrow 5-4 landmark decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Specialties and other religious-based companies.
     
    At stake in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc was whether the United States government can compel individuals and the businesses they own to pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.
     
    “This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” Steve Green said in a written release. Green is the CEO of Hobby Lobby. “Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”
     
    The Obama Administration offered nonprofits an “accommodation” requiring a company’s insurer to pay for certain drugs and devices. Employers would then be the legal entryway by which their employees were able to obtain prescription drugs on their employee health care plan without a co-pay.
     
    Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood both objected on religious grounds to providing four of the 20 forms of birth control – two brands of the emergency “morning after” pill and two kinds of IUDs (intrauterine devices). Plan B, “Ella” and the others prevent embryos from implanting in a woman’s uterus. 

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    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations require companies such as Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, Christian bookstore chain, Mardel and others to provide their female employees with health insurance that includes various forms of birth control.
     
    The mandate contains a narrow religious exemption, exempting only churches.
     
    Associate professor of law at Faulkner University, Michael J. DeBoer, said “The ACA did not mandate that employers and health insurance plans cover contraceptive services. Rather, the ACA required cost-free coverage of several broad categories of preventive health services, including preventive care and screenings for women as provided in guidelines by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

    “The Obama Administration subsequently adopted regulatory rules implementing this provision of the ACA. It was in these rules that the Administration decided to include all U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling within the required package of covered preventive health services. The FDA-approved contraceptive methods include Plan B, Ella, and copper intrauterine devices.”

    Because these religious-based companies believe that human life begins at conception, the families contended that if the corporations were to cover those particular forms of birth control, they would be “complicit in abortion.”
     
    Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. was not a case about whether organizations can have religious beliefs or about access to contraceptives, according to an official document produced by Andrew Walker, director of policy studies, and Travis Wussow, legal consultant on ethical issues, of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). This case was ultimately about the freedom of individuals and the businesses they own to operate their businesses according to their religious beliefs free from government coercion.
     
    Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were concerned that if Hobby Lobby won, then employers might be able to refuse to cover other medical procedures such as blood transfusions and vaccinations.
     
    According to the ERLC, such abuses aren’t happening in America and also, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) initiates an appeals process that balances convincing government interest to an individual or corporation’s evidence of having their religious liberty substantially burdened. Passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate, the RFRA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
     
    Congress has never excluded businesses from the protection of the RFRA and by extension, the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution which refers to the section of the First Amendment that states:   
     
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...”
     
    Even though Congress has never excluded a corporation, it could make an amendment at any time.
    On June 26 the high court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that prohibited anti-abortion protests on public sidewalks within 35 feet of an abortion clinic or hospital.
     
    According to the Court’s ruling in McCullen v. Coakley, the 35-foot “buffer zone” became law in 2007 without evidence abortion protesters had impeded access to abortion clinics and with the particular purpose of silencing the political, religious or moral viewpoint of those who oppose abortion.
    Abortion protestors sued, claiming violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Eleanor McCullen, who filed the case, saw the challenge to the law dismissed by the District Court and the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
     
    Russell D. Moore, president of the ERLC said he was thankful the Court made the right decision, “recognizing freedom of speech and freedom of dissent.

    “Those of us who are pro-life have constitutional guarantees embedded in the First Amendment, along with everyone else,” Moore said. “This was a good decision, and I am cheered that it was a unanimous decision.”
     
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – More stories and commentary on this landmark decision are available on BRnow.org.)

    6/30/2014 2:23:50 PM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments
    Filed under: healthcare, Hobby Lobby, religious freedom




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