Cheers of victory from crowds bearing “religious freedom” signs rang from street outside the Supreme Court Monday as Hobby Lobby emerged narrowly victorious in a test of whether corporations have religious freedom rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The five-four decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, finds “closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraception coverage.”

Citizens rally on the steps of the Supreme Court on Monday (June 30), after it sided with the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., ruling 5-4 that the arts-and-crafts chain does not have to offer insurance for types of birth control that conflict with company owners’ religious beliefs.

Citizens rally on the steps of the Supreme Court on Monday (June 30), after it sided with the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., ruling 5-4 that the arts-and-crafts chain does not have to offer insurance for types of birth control that conflict with company owners’ religious beliefs. RNS photo by Heather Adams


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The evangelical Christian owners of Hobby Lobby and the Mennonite family owners of Conestoga Wood Specialities opposed covering four of the 20 forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration and required under Obamacare. They objected to IUDs and emergency contraception such as Plan B.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, celebrated the ruling as “a great day for religious freedom for family businesses.” The church was not part of this suit but it affects private businesses owned by Catholics and may have an impact on upcoming suits by faith-based nonprofits.

Groans emerged from dismayed but defiant opposition groups — supporters of the Affordable Care Act mandate.

“This decision is a double-edged disaster,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, in a press release.

Lynn called it a “dangerous precedent,” noting that women’s access to birth control could shift with the whims of each new presidential administration.

Politicians such as Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards took to Twitter with their concern that women’s access to birth control had become a political target.

Protesters chant "They say go away. We say no way" after Supreme Court on Monday (June 30) sided with the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., ruling 5-4 that the arts-and-crafts chain does not have to offer insurance for types of birth control that conflict with company owners’ religious beliefs.

Protesters chant “They say go away. We say no way” after Supreme Court on Monday (June 30) sided with the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., ruling 5-4 that the arts-and-crafts chain does not have to offer insurance for types of birth control that conflict with company owners’ religious beliefs. RNS photo by Heather Adams

Demonstrators celebrate after Supreme Court on Monday (June 30) sided with the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., ruling 5-4 that the arts-and-crafts chain does not have to offer insurance for types of birth control that conflict with company owners’ religious beliefs.

Demonstrators celebrate after Supreme Court on Monday (June 30) sided with the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., ruling 5-4 that the arts-and-crafts chain does not have to offer insurance for types of birth control that conflict with company owners’ religious beliefs. RNS photo by Heather Adams

Supporters of the mandate were not appeased by the decision’s numerous qualifications.

The ruling does not extend beyond the contraception issue and doesn’t affect publicly held corporations.

Neither did it necessarily benefit the nonprofit groups that object to a work-around created by the Obama administration, one which didn’t require such nonprofit groups to directly cover contraception.

Kurtz noted this in the USCCB statement, saying, “The Court clearly did not decide whether the so-called ‘accommodation’ violates RFRA when applied to our charities, hospitals and schools, so many of which have challenged it as a burden on their religious exercise.”

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock said the court’s suggestion “that the government’s accommodation for nonprofits is a less restrictive means for the for-profits does not bode well for the non-profits.”

“The court points to the live-and-let-live solution, which is what the government has offered to the religious non-profits: women get free contraception, and the religious objectors don’t have to pay for it, contract for it, or arrange for it.

“The court specifically does not decide the claims of religious nonprofits who don’t even want to send the form claiming the objection. But I would not be optimistic about that claim,” said Laycock.

Ira Lupu, George Washington University law school professor emeritus,  called the impact of the ruling “completely uncertain.”

Lupu said, “Today’s decision does not tell us whether religious non-profits are or are not ‘substantially burdened’ by having to certify their objection and thereby set in motion a process of insurance coverage of their employees’ need for contraceptives. And if “the government can pay” is a relevant less restrictive means, that can apply to all objectors, for-profit or non-profit.”

Looking ahead, Lupu said, “I can see no way that the lower courts can treat the broader objections differently from those of Hobby Lobby; all of the companies objecting to contraceptive coverage requirements will now prevail.”

The Rev. Harry Knox, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, issued a statement disputing the idea that a corporation can have religious rights:

“No matter how closely-held, a corporation is still not a spiritual being — it does not pray or sit in the pews or bring casseroles to the congregational picnic like my family and I do. It is an insult to the uniquely sacred community cultivated by congregations to consider for-profit corporations legally synonymous with a religious institution.”

The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, Interfaith Alliance president, decried the ruling as a “grave error.” He is bothered by all the unanswered questions.

“Though it is narrowly about contraception, the principle involved easily could give leeway for judges” in cases where company owners object to providing services for gay customers, Gaddy said. “Those scare me.”

But David Masci, senior researcher at the Pew Research Center, said that, looking at the majority ruling, “businesses should not see today’s ruling as a license to use religious liberty claims to discriminate racial minorities, women and others in hiring or provision of services or goods. It’s clear that they wanted to head these kinds of claims off at the pass.”

However, Justice Ruth Ginsberg, writing in the minority decision, called the ruling one of “startling breadth” so the fallout is really not known — yet.

One tweeter looked at the recent run of cases in which the Supreme Court opened the door to sectarian prayers at public meetings and also invalidated a Massachusetts law setting a 35-foot buffer zone in front of abortion clinics.

 

And one popular Christian blogger seemed to say folks need to take a breath here:

Religion News Service will be updating reaction from all viewpoints here today so refresh often.

(Click on any photo to begin the slideshow.)

Categories: Beliefs

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics, and manager for social media.

15 Comments

    • An appalling decision. Sadly it was not really a surprise considering the 5 who supported it are Catholic men. Clearly they didn’t give a f**k about all the women (and their partners) who will be negatively impacted.

          • What a stupid thing to say. Such a statement could justify the murder of children at 3 years old. Larry, you are a baby killer, and history never looks upon those who murder children kindly. Ask Hitler or John Wayne Gacy

          • No, stupid is equating a fetus with a born child. There are major major differences between the two you will never consider.

            Stupid is also thinking that taking alleged moral high ground negates a right to privacy.

            They aren’t children until they are born or have any possibility to live outside the womb.

            While they are gestating, only the mother’s will keeps it alive. As long as a fetus is entirely dependent on the mother and no other human being on the planet, it is always going to be her choice whether to bring a pregnancy to term.

            If it isn’t your womb, it will never be your business.

  1. beverly Rickles

    Employers should respect the rights of employees to follow their own personal religious beliefs. Employers should a llow people the dignity to think for themselves.

  2. You can bet they don’t deny vasectomies or Viagra, funded by their companys insurance. Men have the right to sex without consequence, anytime. Women must remain celibate or tied to the bedpost if they cannot afford birth control (which is not cheap out of pocket). We don’t have that right, we’re just women, and should just get back in the kitchen and wait to be told what our opinion of this situation is.

    • They are, dummy.

      Health benefits are compensation for work rendered.
      The whole “they shouldn’t have to pay for it” argument was so blistetingly ignorant. No concept as to how insurance works. An argument from stupidity.

  3. This was a sane ruling, but not sweeping enough.

    The fact is, this has nothing to do with businesses having religion, it is about the OWNERS having religion, and asserting that religious people are allowed under the constitution to engage in commerce.

    Note, the Constitution mentions religious freedom. NEVER mentioned killing babies as a right.

    And yes, businesses should be able to refuse service to homosexuals, nudists, or anyone they find disagreeable. Heck, even if the person just looks at them the wrong way. That’s called freedom.
    There is no imposition because NONE of Hobby Lobby’s employees are mandated to work there. They are fully entitled to quit tomorrow if they want to, and go and work at an abortion clinic.

    Liberty won in this case. Its not common anymore, but this time the fascist thugs of the left were slapped down.

    • They aren’t babies until they are born.

      Your religion does not grant you the right to discriminate in open commerce or be a law unto yourself.

      Hobby Lobby is a corporation. It is not a natural person. Imputing religious beliefs to it was beyond stupid. Steve Green didn’t sue the government his legal fictionally entity created by filing with the Department of State of Oklahoma did.

  4. The histrionics of feminists re this issue are proof positive that their days are numbered. I do not want to be forced to pay for a woman’s sexual adventures. God help my country.

    • And there you have it. The blatantly discriminatory attitude towards women. That somehow your alleged moral stance is more important than a right to privacy. Being a Christian seems to entitle people to make decisions for everyone else because they naturally know better. The level of delusional arrogance coming off you guys is ridiculous.

      Anyone’s “adventures” are not any of your business and certainly not your employer’s.

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