Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott yesterday Monday, June 30 issued a statement praising the United States Supreme Court decision in the landmark Hobby Lobby case as protecting religious freedom, according to the Office of the Texas Attorney General. The 5-4 decision was handed down yesterday with a predictable vote along conservative versus liberal lines.
Abbott said, "Today's ruling is a major victory for religious freedom and another blow to the heavy-handed way the Obama Administration has tried to force the misguided Obamacare law on Americans. Once again, the Supreme Court has stricken down an overreeaching regulation by the Obama Administration and once again Obamacare has proven to be an illegal intrusion into the lives of so many Americans across the country."
Legally cited as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the High Court wrote in pertinent part, "At issue here are regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, which, as relevant here requires specified employers' group health plans to furnish "preventitive care and screenings" for women without "any cost sharing requirements."
The Court went on to explain that, "Nonexempt employers are generally required to provide coverage for the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including the 4 that may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus. Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from the contraceptive mandate. 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 benefits."
The Court then explained that in the case before them which includes Hobby Lobby, a business owned by the Green family, who are devoutly religious, "the owners of three closely held for profit corporations have sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religious beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate at that point."
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion for the three cases, saying, "We must decide whether in these cases the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) permits the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to demand that three closely-held corporations provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies' owners. We hold that the regulations that impose this obligation violate RFRA, which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest."
Voting with Alito were Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and swing vote Kennedy.
The two companies challenging the contraceptive coverage requirement were Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which makes wood cabinets, according to an article in today's New York Times. The requirement has also been challenged in 50 other cases, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Kelly Shackeford, president, CEO and chief counsel for Liberty Institute, said, "I was stunned to hear the Solicitor General assert that if you start a business you essentially shed your First Amendment religious rights."
He further said, "Today, in a landmark win for the freedom of conscience rights of every American, I'm very gratified to see the Court rejected that argument...though the fact that the government made it is very troubling and shows the need for vigilance on the part of all who cherish religious freedo. This is an important victory for religious freedom and will impact many of our cases."
Alito went on to explain that , "In holding that the HHS mandate is unlawful, we reject HHS's argument that the owners of the companies forfeited all RFRA protections when they decided to organize their businesses as corporations rather than sole proprietorships or general partnerships."
Alito further explained the rationale for the majority's ruling, saying, "The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the mandate they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply they will pay a very heavy price-as much as $l.3 milllion a day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies.
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