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How Democrats helped pave the way for the Hobby Lobby Decision

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Earlier this week Democratic Senators introduced legislation that they hope would overturn the Supreme Court decision in favor of craft giant Hobby Lobby regarding the Obamacare HHS contraception mandate.

It's important to note that the Hobby Lobby decision was not based on the First Amendment, but based on an interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill that was introduced into Congress in 1993 by Democratic Congressman Chuck Schumer of New York. Among the co-sponsors of the legislation were Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CO) and, most notably, Former Speaker of the House Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

The measure passed the House of Representatives on a unanimous vote in October, 1993, followed by a 97-3 passage in the U.S. Senate. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law in November, 1993.

Among the things the Act sought to do was refrain from limiting religious freedom, unless they have a compelling societal reason for doing so, and select the least intrusive method to achieve their goal, if they need to restrict religious freedom.

RelgiousTolerance.org notes that "Over 60 religious organizations and civil liberties groups combined to form the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion to fight this trend. They represented religious liberals and conservatives, and included Native American spiritual groups and Christian, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim, Scientology and Sikh religious organizations. The coalition brought together longtime enemies, like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Concerned Women for America; the Americans United for Separation of Church & State and the Traditional Values Coalition."

In the decision, the Chicago Monitor notes that "Justice Alito used a long standing body of law, which for legal purposes, applied the concept of the “person” protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as applying in certain circumstances to companies and corporations. Alito went on to explain that, “The purpose of extending rights to corporations is protect the rights of people associated with the corporation including shareholders, officers, and employee’s . . . Protecting the free exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.”"

Speaking out against the decision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said “The one thing we are going to do during this work period — sooner rather than later — is to ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men.” Reid had apparently forgotten that Justice Clarence Thomas is not exactly a white man.

In her weekly press conference, Nancy Pelosi said "Really, we should be afraid of this court. The five guys who start determining what contraceptions are legal. Let's not even go there."

Megyn Kelly of Fox News went on the air and said, "I’ve seen the media rush to clarify Ms. Pelosi’s misleading remarks … Oh, no, I have seen none of that, except on Fox News. When you’ve got somebody in such a powerful a position as Nancy Pelosi, in a position to influence so many people on such a platform, come out and tell blatant falsehoods, there should be some fact-checking. Where is PolitiFact on that? Where is the mainstream media calling her to account?"

Politifact accepted the challenge. In rating the claim "False," Politifact notes, "The Hobby Lobby decision didn’t turn on whether certain types of contraception should be legal, but rather on the question of whether certain corporations could decide on religious grounds not to pay for specific types of contraceptives in employee health insurance plans. Experts say that there are solid legal precedents that would keep the Supreme Court from actually banning forms of contraception outright."

Kelly also takes issue of the erroneous statement that "five men" were determining what contraceptives women could use. The decision was only ever about what Hobby Lobby would have to pay for In doing so, she also points out that the 7-2 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision of 1993 was decided by a court of nine men.

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