Earlier today, Rev. Sirico spoke with WSJ Live’s Mary Kissel about the contraceptive mandate ruling, religion’s place in the public square, and the historical context of the Supreme Court’s decision. Watch below:
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court just announced its ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, holding that, “as applied to closely held corporations, the government’s HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).” The full opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, can be read here.
Although there is still much to digest, and although the majority opinion still leaves quite a bit of room for related battles to continue, it’s worth noting that that whatever perceived “narrowness” we see in the decision — confining things specifically to closely held corporations — remains a significant victory, particularly given our culture’s prevailing attitudes about business.
According to HHS, by simply incorporating one’s business in the pursuit of profit — “without in any way changing the size or nature of their businesses” — a company “would forfeit all RFRA (and free-exercise) rights” (quotes from Alito’s paraphrase). The arguments supporting such a view vary, including the principal argument advanced by HHS that corporations cannot “exercise religion.”
Alito dissects this from a variety of angles, and does so rather compellingly. But one of the more noteworthy sections is his refutation of the notion that for-profit corporations aren’t protected by RFRA because they “simply seek to make a profit.” (more…)
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority (5-4) opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The decision was decided in large part because it aligns with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that passed the U.S. Senate 97-3 and was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The law is intended to prevent burdens to a person’s free exercise of religion. At the time, it had wide ranging bipartisan support and was introduced in the House by current U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
That four justices voted against the decision speaks to the current ideological divide at the court and in the nation of a once non-controversial understanding of religious liberty.
Some significant lines from Alito’s majority decision are below:
As applied to closely held corporations, the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA.
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.
…the court held that HHS had not proved that the mandate was the “least restrictive means” of furthering a compelling governmental interest.
RFRA’s text shows that Congress designed the statute to provide very broad protection for religious liberty…
Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.
HHS has also provided no evidence that the purported problem of determining the sincerity of an asserted religious belief moved Congress to exclude for-profit corporations from RFRA’s protection.
Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to non-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate.
What is the end – the goal – of business anyway? Is it to merely maximize a profit or to do good, or some balance between the two? And what exactly does it mean for a business to “do good”? And if I happen to be a person of deep religious faith, do I have to check my faith at the boardroom door? What influence should my faith have on the exchanges I engage in day to day, and what are the practical implications of ethics on how I conduct myself in business relationships? Andrew Abela is the 2009 recipient of Acton’s Novak Award. He has just co-authored a very important book on the subject of the intersection of ethics and morality with business: A Catechism for Business: Tough Ethical Questions & Insights From Catholic Teaching (The Catholic University of America Press). He speaks with Acton’s Paul Edwards on this edition of Radio Free Acton.
The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby contraception case. But which arguments will have the most influence on the justices? Michael McConnel, a respected Religion Clauses scholar from Standford, explains which four arguments are most likely to be important:
Cutting through the politicized hype about the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga case (“Corporations have no rights!” “War on Women!”) the Justices during oral argument focused on four serious legal questions, which deserve a serious answer:
(1) Could Hobby Lobby avoid a substantial burden on its religious exercise by dropping health insurance and paying fines of $2,000 per employee?
(2) Does the government have a compelling interest in protecting the statutory rights of Hobby Lobby’s employees?
(3) Would a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby give rise to a slippery slope of exemptions from vaccines, minimum wage laws, anti-discrimination laws, and the like?
(4) Has the government satisfied the least restrictive means test?
I think the answer to all four questions is “no.” I offer brief thoughts on each below.
The CVS chain made an announcement a few weeks ago: they would no longer sell tobacco products at their stores. CVS President and CEO Larry Merlo said:
As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.
Merlo’s own father died of lung cancer, and Merlo felt that this was not only a business decision, but an ethical one. (more…)
Over at The Federalist, Gabriel Malor runs down some interesting “illusions” (okay, he calls them lies) regarding the HHS mandate and the Supreme Court. Here’s a quick run-down:
- The HHS mandate is all about women’s rights. Nope: women don’t lose a thing if Hobby Lobby et al. win. What will happen if Hobby Lobby and others like them win their case is that women who do not wish to pay for others’ birth control and/or abortions will not be forced to do so.
- The HHS mandate is about gay rights. Admittedly, this one was new to me. However, there are some who are saying that if business owners don’t have to pay for birth control, they can turn away gay customers as well, or as Malor puts it, if the government loses, it will “unleash an apocalypse of discrimination heretofore avoided.” No; every time there is a possible violation of religious freedom, our court system must weigh each case individually.
- These contraception cases are all about for-profit companies. Big business, bad business, you know. These companies, who are already pocketing millions, are looking for special treatment. However, there is no mention of the corporate form in the First Amendment. It neither includes nor precludes it.
- Corporations cannot exercise freedom of religion. People can (hopefully) but businesses can’t. This would be news to every Catholic diocese in the United States, as they all operate under corporate form.
- We can’t allow dangerous new rights for corporations/businesses. Um, since when has the federal government been allowed to tell business owners what types of insurance they have to provide? Oh, yeah…now.
- Our government has a compelling interest in forcing businesses to provide birth control. Legally, that is what the government has to prove. Of course, this is “bunk,” according to Malor, especially since Kathleen Sebelius has already granted 190 million exemptions. How can the government prove then a compelling interest?
On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, both of which will have a profound impact on the future of religious liberty and freedom of conscience in America.
Thus, Hobby Lobby supporters across the country have been invited to offer their prayers in support of the company, and I encourage you to participate. You can help spread the word by changing the avatar on your social media accounts and posting with the hashtag #PrayForHobbyLobby. Although the Court will be hearing arguments tomorrow, I would encourage us to begin our intercession today.
The government is telling the Hobby Lobby owners, the Green family, that their free exercise rights aren’t relevant because they run a corporation. They’re telling these Anabaptist woodworkers and the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor and ministries of all sorts all over the country that what’s at stake is just the signing of some papers, the payment of some money.
Our government has treated free exercise of religion as though it were a tattered house standing in the way of a government construction of a railroad; there to be bought off or plowed out of the way, in the name of progress … (more…)
The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, continue to express their views as to why the HHS mandate violates their faith. This short video highlights Green family members discussing their faith and how it informs all their decisions.
In a new video from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Green Family, owners of the embattled retail chain, Hobby Lobby, discusses the religious foundation of their business and the threat the federal government now poses to those who share their beliefs.
“What’s at stake here is whether you’re able to keep your religious freedom when you open a family business,” says Lori Windham, Senior Council at The Becket Fund, “whether you can continue to live out your faith in the way that you live every aspect of your life.” (more…)