A pending decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may send the message to Washington that it’s not a good idea to interfere with religious freedom.
Recently, the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby was argued before the High Court. For the past couple of months, it appears justices may be leaning towards a favorable ruling supporting the chain retailer’s religious beliefs. The issue? Whether Hobby Lobby, or any other employer can be compelled to make available mandatory contraceptive treatment coverage to employees.
Hobby Lobby is not the only organization to feel the heat of Obamacare’s “contraception mandate.” George Mason University law professor, Helen Alvare, reports in the Hill of June 25, that coinciding with this litigation involving a private-sector employer, is a similar matter concerning Little Sisters of the Poor, a non-profit comprised of 30 homes in the United States: facilities assisting in caring for the dying elderly. The Obama administration says the sisters are bound by the same Affordable Care Act contraception requirement. Noncompliance potentially equals fines in the millions for the sisters, who say they are just simply adhering to their religious beliefs.
A creed, like Hobby Lobby’s, is opposed to birth control. Their case is at the lower Federal Appellate Court level. So far, judges there have temporarily halted the fines against the sisters, but for both entities the legal wrangling is far from over.
Perhaps sooner rather than later, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the case of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties.
The two family owned and operated businesses have challenged an Affordable Care act directive mandating that employers provide abortion and birth-control related drugs and/or treatments. Conestoga and Hobby Lobby are not alone in fighting this Obamacare provision and 49 others have joined the cause. These businesses now await a decision from the highest court in the land which determines whether they get to run their companies in ways aligned with their respective Christian faiths.
In 35 other such lawsuits, courts have issued injunctions denying the federal government mandate enforcement powers for this issue.
Is it possible for something as innocuous as arts and crafts to be another staging area for freedom of choice issues? If so, thank Hobby Lobby. On Tuesday, March 25, 2014, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case potentially sparking competition between women’s rights and religious liberty. While arguably tumultuous on its own, the case could have significant effects on laws which ban discrimination against gay men and lesbians. The core issue: whether for profit corporations can be compelled to provide healthcare insurance coverage for contraception medications, and devices. Hobby Lobby has challenged the ACA’s contraception mandate saying it is in direct conflict with its own religious ethical standards. Former United States Acting Solicitor General, Walter Dellinger tells the New York Times: “ If Hobby Lobby were to prevail, the consequences would extend far beyond the issue of contraception.” Dellinger has filed a brief pleading with the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the law. Mr. Dellinger added: “We would be entering a new world, for which for the first time, commercial enterprises could successfully claim religious exemptions from laws that govern everyone else.”
Michigan and 19 other states see things differently, arguing religious freedom is “American as apple pie.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear another case about the First Amendment. This time as it relates to religious freedom – and religion-based choices. Arts and crafts industry leader Hobby Lobby is challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide extensive coverage for contraceptives – like IUDs and morning after pills. Four years ago the court was asked to rule on free speech in relation to campaign contributions. A widely disputed ruling by the justices held that private corporations had free speech rights in election campaigns. Now the Court is being asked to decide whether private-sector entities companies can be granted religious liberties. Hobby Lobby is made up of some 500 plus stores owned by the Green family. The Greens are Evangelical Christians who contend contraceptive requirements inherent in Obamacare violate guarantees of religious freedom to which they are entitled. Some contraception devices can end human life after conception, so says the Green Family, and thus forcing them to fund such devices makes them accessories to abortions. Obama Administration advisors are fighting back. Their argument: there is no legal precedent for a private enterprise winning a right, based upon religious beliefs, to be exempted from laws which govern for profit corporations. The lawsuits seek remedies potentially based not just on the 1st Amendment, but also on a 1993 congressional act strengthening religious freedom. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of that year states: “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” except to further a “compelling” interest.
In addition to Hobby Lobby, about 50 other for-profit companies of varying sizes are in litigation to obtain a religious exemption from the contraceptives rule.