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Family businesses can exercise religious freedom too, U.S. Supreme Court says

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The United States Supreme Court ruled in a close but clear 5-4 decision this morning in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the craft giant Hobby Lobby may not be forced by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act to carry insurance policies which violate the religious beliefs of the owners. The Court made clear that a previous religious freedom case involving a Kosher market, Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Mass. Inc. (1961) already clearly established that a corporation can exercise religion as well as an individual.

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"We hold that the regulations that impose this obligation violate RFRA (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act), which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action which substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest," associate justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion of the Court, in which he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and his fellow associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy, who wrote a concurring opinion. Alito essentially explained that because Hobby Lobby is a "closely held" company, or that a majority of it is controlled by a small group of people such as a family, that company has the free exercise of religion on its owners' behalf.

The Hobby Lobby ruling also applies in total to a related case, Burwell v. Conestoga Wood Specialties. Conestoga Wood Specialties is a Mennonite-owned Pennsylvania-based crafter of wood doors and kitchen and bath components that sells their wood products wholesale. The family that owns Conestoga also objected to being forced to carry insurance which would pay for abortions or abortion-inducing drugs, just as the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, did.

The case was being closely watched in Catholic circles, especially by the Board of Directors of EWTN, the Global Catholic Network, which has a case against the Obama administration's HHS mandate presently winding its way to a likely Supreme Court appearance. EWTN, which is based in Irondale and Hanceville, near Birmingham is joined by the State of Alabama, whose Attorney General, Luther Strange, insisted that the State act on the Catholic radio and television broadcaster's behalf.



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