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Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Hobby Lobby In Contraception Case

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File photo. File photo.
File photo. File photo.
WASHINGTON -

The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.

The justices' 5-4 decision Monday is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies' health insurance plans.

Contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld two years later.

The ruling is a loss for reproductive rights advocates who have balked at the notion that some businesses can pick and choose which contraception methods to cover. While it's a victory for Christian conservatives opposed to the contraception rule, the ruling skirts the broad ramifications that could have come from shielding all for-profit firms from laws that interfere with religious beliefs.

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. -- two privately-held, for-profit companies -- sued the United States government over a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide comprehensive health coverage (including contraception) or pay a fine. Hobby Lobby's owners, David and Barbara Green of Oklahoma, say they have strong objections based in their Christian faith to providing health care coverage for certain types of contraception. The Pennsylvania-based Hahn family, the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, had the same complaint.

Supreme Court opinion [BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL. v. HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC]

For Christian conservatives, the Obamacare rule represents the threat of government overreach. However, granting all for-profit firms the freedom of religious expression could have opened the floodgates for unprecedented corporate protections. Such a ruling, the administration argued, could have interfered with laws that ban gender discrimination, minimum wage and overtime laws, or mandated health coverage for vaccinations, to name a few.

Senator Dr. Tom Coburn statement on Supreme Court opinion:

The Supreme Court's decision today is a victory for all Americans. The Court wisely affirmed that it is wrong for the government to violate the freedom of conscience and religious liberties of American citizens. Religious freedom is the foundation of all of our rights and that foundation was strengthened by today's ruling.

Hobby Lobby's success has always been based on its owners – the Green family's – work ethic and character, which are informed by their religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby is closed on Sunday, they pay their employees a livable wage, they provide health insurance for their employees, and they support numerous charities across the nation. I am pleased the Supreme Court sent a message to other business owners and entrepreneurs across America that they don't have to surrender their Constitutional rights when opening a business.

Finally, this case was not about access to birth control, but government coercion. Hobby Lobby, which employs thousands of Americans across the country, provides its employees with quality health care insurance, including coverage for nearly all FDA approved contraceptives. This case was about the federal government forcing Hobby Lobby's owners to choose between paying for life-ending drugs and devices and violating their beliefs, or crippling their business. I'm pleased the Court ruled in favor of freedom.

First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine statement:

"This is a great day for religious liberty in America.  The Supreme Court has ruled, although more narrowly than many would prefer, that closely held companies do not have to leave their deeply held religious convictions at the door of their businesses.  I celebrate with the Green and Hahn families and offer my sincere appreciation for standing on their beliefs. 

The Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods cases considered before the Supreme Court are all about fundamental First Amendment rights:  Do citizens have the right to enter into business without abandoning their faith? 

Both of these family-owned businesses started small.  They have grown over the years without abandoning their deeply held convictions about how to interact with their employees while making a living and serving their communities.  Then Obamacare forced them into a difficult decision.   

The "HHS mandate" would require them to provide certain drugs and services that are readily available elsewhere, should their employees choose to use them.  The problem is that a small number of these drugs and services violate the values of these employers, so they choose not to provide them as part of their employee benefits.  The business owners are not denying their employees the right to make their own personal choices about whether to use these particular drugs and services.  These families are simply choosing that their company will not provide the drugs and services.  The Court has affirmed that family owned, "closely held" corporations have the right to make that choice. 

This is a fundamental religious liberty concern not confined to any one group.  Numerous members of widely diverse religious communities have sued over whether HHS can mandate that people must abandon the free exercise of religious convictions in order to operate a business in America today.  While over half of Americans disapprove of Obamacare overall, even more oppose the HHS mandate. 

The Obamacare fine for companies that do not provide insurance at all is $2,000 per year per employee.  But companies like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, which provide excellent healthcare coverage, would have been fined $36,500 per year per employee over a very small number of products the families find objectionable.  The "Fine on Faith" was $100 per employee per day.  This would have amounted to approximately half a billion dollars per year for Hobby Lobby. 

The irony is that the Obama Administration has chosen to exempt hundreds of thousands of others on purely secular grounds, but they chose to fight the Green and Hahn families all the way to the Supreme Court. 

I believe the majority of the Court has made the correct judgment in upholding this fundamental constitutional right."

The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.

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