The Supreme Court ruled on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. It was, a dissent said, “a decision of startling breadth.” The 5-to-4 ruling, which technically only applied to two companies owned by Christian families, has opened the flood gates to many challenges from corporations over laws that they claim violate their religious liberty. Who or what is “Hobby Lobby” The company’s web site describes themselves thusly: “Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., located in Oklahoma City, OK, was founded in a garage by David Green in 1970. Hobby Lobby officially began operation on August 3, 1972 with a mere 300 square feet of retail space, and has been growing ever since. Today, it has 572 stores across the nation that average 55,000 square feet and offer more than 67,000 crafting and home decor products. Hobby Lobby is listed as a major private corporation in Forbes and Fortunes list of America’s largest private companies, and our company carries no long-term debt.” David Green insists God is the true owner of his $3 billion arts and crafts chain. Green and his family owns 100% of the company and he ranks No. 79 on our list of the 400 richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $4.5 billion. Green’s father was a small-time preacher who bounced from one tiny congregation to another. He grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes. All of Green’s five siblings became either pastors themselves or pastors’ wives. Acting as God’s disciple, Green has become the largest evangelical benefactor in the world. Hobby Lobby describes itself and it’s christian values on it’s web site: At Hobby Lobby, we value our customers and employees and are committed to: Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles. Offering our customers exceptional selection and value in the crafts and home decor market. Serving our employees and their families by establishing a work environment and company policies that build character, strengthen individuals and nurture families. Providing a return on the owner’s investment, sharing the Lord’s blessings with our employees, and investing in our community. We believe that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured. He has been faithful in the past, and we trust Him for our future. http://www.hobbylobby.com/our_company/ministry.cfm Forbes magazine did an extensive article on Mr. Green’s beliefs and his evangelical background. See: http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2012/09/18/david-green-the-biblical-billionaire-backing-the-evangelical-movement/ THE HOBBY LOBBY OPINON The five “conservative” justices of the Supreme Court used the language of The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993(RFRA) to strike down the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that required all employers in the United States to offer comprehensive access to various methods of birth control to their women employees. Hobby Lobby objected to having to provide particular methods of birth control “as being against their religious beliefs.” The two most “objectionable” methods were “the morning after pill” and the IUD. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to all religions, but it was passed to protect Native American religions that were being burdened by the expansion of government projects onto sacred land. In Native American religions the land they worship on is very important. Often the particular ceremonies involving taking illegal drugs were being targeted by law enforcement and disrupted. Protecting peyote use by Native American religions was also one of the primary impetus for the passage of this law. Many groups came together. Both liberal (like the American Civil Liberties Union) and conservative groups (like the Traditional Values Coalition) as well as other groups such as the Christian Legal Society, the American Jewish Congress, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and the National Association of Evangelicals joined forces to support RFRA, which would reinstate the Sherbert Test, overturning laws if they burden a religion. The Sherbert Test, which was set forth by Sherbert v. Verner, and Wisconsin v. Yoder, provided that strict scrutiny be used when determining whether the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing religious freedom, has been violated. In the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Congress stated that a religiously neutral law can burden a religion just as much as one that was intended to interfere with religion:  therefore the Act states that the “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”  The law provided an exception if two conditions are both met. First, the burden must be necessary for the “furtherance of a compelling government interest.”  Under strict scrutiny, a government interest is compelling when it is more than routine and does more than simply improve government efficiency. A compelling interest relates directly with core constitutional issues.  The second condition is that the rule must be the least restrictive way in which to further the government interest. Privately Held Corporations are People and Can have Religious Beliefs The Opinion written by Justice Roberts sets the background: At issue here are regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), which, as relevant here, requires specified employers’ group health plans to furnish “preventive care and screenings” for women without “any cost sharing requirements,” 42 U. S. C. §300gg—13(a)(4). Congress did not specify what types of preventive care must be covered; it authorized the Health Resources and Services Administration, a component of HHS, to decide. Ibid. Nonexempt employers are generally required to provide coverage for the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including the 4 that may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus. Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from this contraceptive mandate. HHS has also effectively exempted religious nonprofit organizations with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services. Under this accommodation, the insurance issuer must exclude contraceptive coverage from the employer’s plan and provide plan participants with separate payments for contraceptive services without imposing any cost-sharing requirements on the employer, its insurance plan, or its employee beneficiaries. In these cases, the owners of three closely held for-profit corporations have sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point. Held: As applied to closely held corporations, the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA. (a) RFRA applies to regulations that govern the activities of closely held for-profit corporations like Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel. (1) HHS argues that the companies cannot sue because they are for-profit corporations, and that the owners cannot sue because the regulations apply only to the companies, but that would leave merchants with a difficult choice: give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits of operating as corporations. RFRA’s text shows that Congress designed the statute to provide very broad protection for religious liberty and did not intend to put merchants to such a choice. It employed the familiar legal fiction of including corporations within RFRA’s definition of “persons,” but the purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporation, including shareholders, officers, and employees. Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them. WHAT DOES HOBBY LOBBY REALLY MEAN? The courts shocking opinion, masquerading as a narrow matter over a minor aspect of the health care law, establishes that “corporations can have religious beliefs.” The federal government has “to respect” and make accommodations for privately held corporations “religious beliefs.” Privately held corporations are owned by individuals and their families and for the most part these individuals comprise the most financially successful people in our country. Now not only does the government have to bow to their “religious beliefs” no matter how bazaar, individuals who have the misfortune fo working for these religious zealots, have to obey the tenants fo their master’s religions…or go get another job. JUSTICE GINSBURG, with whom JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR joins, and with whom JUSTICE BREYER and JUSTICE KAGAN join as to all but Part III-C-1, wrote in their dissenting opinion: “In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs. See ante, at 16-49. Compelling governmental interests in uniform compliance with the law, and disadvantages that religion-based opt-outs impose on others, hold no sway…” POST SCRIPT Where will this all end? Today we have a fervent group of billionaires who are using their “religious freedom” to attach our social safety net. Today it’s a small aspect of the Affordable Care Act, tomorrow it could be Social Security contributions. My religion says it’s each individual’s responsibility to live fugally and provde for thier own means. To pay into retirement programs established by the government violates my religious beliefs…. Take our word for it, the day is coming and it will now be sooner than later.
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
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