Christian Retailing

Supreme Court narrowly rules for Hobby Lobby Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 03:56 PM America/New_York

Retailer can’t be forced to provide certain contraceptive coverage that violate faith-based convictions

SupremeCourt-CreditUpstateNYerCraft chain Hobby Lobby came out the victor in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision June 30. The long-awaited but narrow ruling for Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby and for Pennsylvania-based Conestoga Wood Specialties fell in favor of the family-run businesses.

The Affordable Care Act—commonly known as Obamacare—directs businesses to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees or face having to pay severe fines. The mandate does not allow businesses owned by Christians whose beliefs conflict with the law to forego providing coverage.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion for the court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell. The cases were consolidated before the Supreme Court.

“Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them,” he wrote.

Alito called the holding “very specific,” and contrary to what the dissenting opinion, written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, alleges, does not hold “that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises ‘can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.’ ”

Lori Windham, senior counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby, saw the ruling as “a landmark decision for religious freedom.”

 “The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” Windham said. “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.”

The court upheld a June 2013 ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals protecting Hobby Lobby and the Green family from the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, which required the chain to provide and facilitate, against their religious convictions, four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in the company’s health insurance plan. While the business provides other forms of contraceptive coverage through insurance, the Greens argued that the HHS mandate substantially burdened their religious beliefs in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Business owners shouldn’t have to give up their faith to operate a business, and they should be free to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of government punishment,” said Curtis Riskey, CBA president. “Americans don’t surrender their freedom when they open a family business.”

Mardel Christian & Education, owned by members of the Green family, also joined the suit. —Christine D. Johnson