Monday, June 30, 2014

#HobbyLobby Wins Supreme Court Case Not to Insure Women's Contraception Against Their Faith

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The US Supreme Court has ruled today, 5-4, that the government can't require certain "family owned and small business" employers to provide insurance coverage for methods of birth control and emergency contraception that conflict with their religious beliefs.

In a deeply divisive case pitting advocates of religious liberty against women’s right’s groups, the Supreme Court said today that two for profit corporations with sincerely held religious beliefs do not have to provide a full range of contraceptives at no cost to their employees pursuant to the Affordable Care Act.

In the case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito who insists that for purposes of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, closely held corporations should be regarded as “persons” and have their religious freedoms upheld.

In holding that the HHS mandate is unlawful, we reject HHS’s argument that the owners of the companies forfeited all RFRA protection when they decided to organizetheir businesses as corporations rather than sole proprietorships or general partnerships. The plain terms of RFRA make it perfectly clear that Congress did not discriminate in this way against men and women who wish torun their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.

It’s also important to note that the business owners’ objections were not to contraception, per se, but to abortion. They argued that four types of contraception required to be covered amounted to abortion, as Alito noted and which Solicitor General, in arguing the Obama Administration case in March, has rejected as contrary to any ordinary understanding of what abortion is. Alito:

The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the fourcontraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe theywill be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply,they will pay a very heavy price—as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not amount toa substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.

Alito noted that the Obama Administration has already carved out exceptions to the mandate for churches, and for religious non-profit it has devised a workaround that involves the government — the religious non-profit — paying for the coverage. Alito:

Although HHS has made this system available to religious nonprofits that have religious objections to the contraceptive mandate, HHS has provided no reason why thesame system cannot be made available when the owners of for-profit corporations have similar religious objections. We therefore conclude that this system constitutes analternative that achieves all of the Government’s aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty. And under RFRA, that conclusion means that enforcement of the HHS contraceptive mandate against the objectingparties in these cases is unlawful.

As this description of our reasoning shows, our holdingis very specific. We do not hold, as the principal dissentalleges, that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can ‘opt out of any law (saving only tax laws)they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.’

All the justices that assented to the ruling were men. Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a concurring opinion.

The decision is a victory for the Green family that owns the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain and the Hahns who own Conestoga, a cabinet making company, who had challenged the so called contraceptive mandate saying it forced them to either violate their faith or pay ruinous fines. The government defended the provision as an essential part of health care coverage for women.

Via ABC and Dallas News. The full ruling on Mother Jones.

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