The Supreme Court this morning ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that the Federal government could not compel “closely-held” corporations who hold religious exemptions to opt-out of the Obamacare mandate that they cover contraceptives. The ruling covered two separate lawsuits filed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Justice Samuel Alito writing the majority opinion said, “We hold that the regulations that impose this obligation violate RFRA, which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest.”
He wrote that Congress did not discriminate against men and women who decided to organize as corporations rather than sole proprietorships or general partnerships when they passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
He noted that Hobby Lobby would have to pay $1.3 million per day or $475 million per year if they did not comply with the mandates. “If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would,” Alito wrote.
He noted that since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have already worked out a system that “seeks to respect the religious liberty of religious nonprofit corporations” while ensuring their employees have access to FDA approved contraceptives he said that HHS failed to provide a reason why that system could not be made available to for-profit corporations who have similar religious objections.
The majority opinion also made it clear that they were not ruling that for-profit corporations could opt-out of any law they state they have religious objections to.
Chief Justice John Roberts provided the swing vote on the Court that ruled Obamacare was constitutional, in today’s ruling he sided with the majority.
“We in the Hahn family want to thank everyone who supported us during this lawsuit. We wholeheartedly affirm what the Supreme Court made clear today—that Americans don’t have to surrender their freedom when they open a family business. All Americans, including family business owners, must be free to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of government punishment. As I said at the beginning of this lawsuit, this effort wasn’t just for Conestoga. We took this stand for others as well. The administration has gone too far in disrespecting the freedom of Americans to live out their convictions. For our family and others like us, that means it must respect our freedom not to participate in the distribution of drugs and devices that can cause an abortion,” said Conestoga Wood Specialties President and CEO Anthony Hahn in a released statement.
Hobby Lobby co-founders David and Barbara Green responded to the ruling in a video today:
The ruling was also praised by conservatives.
“Americans don’t surrender their freedom by opening a family business,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman. “In its decision today, the Supreme Court affirmed that all Americans, including family business owners, must be free to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of government punishment. In a free and diverse society, we respect the freedom to live out our convictions. For the Hahns and the Greens, that means not being forced to participate in distributing potentially life-terminating drugs and devices.”
“Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of religious freedom by taking a stand with Hobby Lobby. Religious liberty will remain intact and all Americans can stay true to their faith without fear of big government intervention or punishment,” U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said. “Our nation was founded on the principle of freedom, and with this decision, America will continue to serve as a safe haven for those looking to exercise religious liberty.”
“This is a landmark decision for religious freedom. The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby. “This ruling will protect people of all faiths. The Court’s reasoning was clear, and it should have been clear to the government. You can’t argue there are no alternative means when your agency is busy creating alternative means for other people.”
“Evangelicals everywhere should rejoice at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold American citizens’ religious freedoms. Let this be a good reminder to all of us, that we must uphold a strong public witness for Christ and never allow our religious freedom to become gagged and bound in our sanctuaries,” Chelsen Vicari with the Institute on Religion and Democracy said. “It is imperative that we examine the ethics of abortifacients from a Christian ethical perspective. For the Religious Left, the willful autonomous individual, and sexual freedom, trump all other considerations, even the destruction of innocent human life.”
“I am grateful for the Catholic bishops, Orthodox rabbis, Evangelicals, Southern Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, religious broadcasters and Christian schools who affirm liberty of conscience and dignity for all persons. Unlike the religious supporters of the Obamacare HHS mandate, they envision a transcendent community of truth, love and beauty,” Vicari added.
“The mandate served only that group of women who support the president’s radical pro-abortion agenda. An agenda that would sacrifice our constitutional right to the free exercise of religion at the altar of so-called reproductive rights. It clearly works against those free-thinking women CWA represents who reject society’s imposed feminist values for the freedom envisioned by our founding principles of liberty and justice for all,” Peggy Nance, President of Concerned Women for America stated. “The Justices have done the country a great service today by staying true to those principles and preserving religious liberty for all, including the women represented by the other side.”
The Supreme Court last week struck down the Massachusetts Abortion Buffer Zone law they said hindered free speech. Also today, the Court ruled 5-4 that employees could not be forced to pay public union dues.