5-4: Americans Don’t Surrender Their Freedom When They Open a Family Business

June 30, 2014 - 9:31 AM

Supreme Court Birth Control

Demonstrator react to hearing the Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. 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.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - Anthony Hahn, the president and CEO of Conestoga Wood Specialties, one of the companies challenging Obamacare's contraception mandate, said his legal battle wasn't for his company alone.

"We wholeheartedly affirm what the Supreme Court made clear today -- that Americans don’t have to surrender their freedom when they open a family business. All Americans, including family business owners, must be free to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of government punishment."

Hahn said for his family and like-minded Americans, the government must respect "our freedom not to participate in the distribution of drugs and devices that can cause an abortion.”

The 5-4 opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of
religion.

But President Obama's Health and Human Services Department, in issuing the contraceptive mandate would have required the families who own Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and Mardel to "engage in conduct that seriously violates their sincere religious belief that life begins at conception.

"If they and their companies refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, they face severe economic consequences: about $475 million per year for Hobby Lobby, $33 million per year for Conestoga, and $15 million per year for Mardel. And if they drop coverage altogether, they could face penalties of roughly $26 million for Hobby Lobby,
$1.8 million for Conestoga, and $800,000 for Mardel," the opinion says.

The government failed to show that "it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion."

In a concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the government could choose to pay for contraception coverage itself, if it is so determined for women to have such coverage.

The conservative Family Research Council (FRC) called the ruling "one of the most significant victories for religious freedom in our generation."

The government "went too far by mandating that family businesses owners must violate their consciences under threat of crippling fines," said FRC President Tony Perkins in a statement.

"All Americans can be thankful that the Court reaffirmed that freedom of conscience is a long-held American tradition and that the government cannot impose a law on American men and women that forces them to violate their beliefs in order to hold a job, own a business, or purchase health insurance.

"The unfair HHS mandate gave family businesses two non-choices: either violate your deeply held moral beliefs and comply by paying for drugs and services to which you object, or pay crippling fines of up to $100 per day, per employee, for non-compliance. This mandate threatened the jobs, livelihood and healthcare of millions of Americans and forced those who stood up for their conscience, like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, to either comply or be punished.

Sen. David Vitter was among the many Americans hailing the U.S. Supreme Court for reaffirming "the most basic principle upon which our country was founded -- the free exercise of religion."

“This is truly a great day in America," said the Louisiana Republican on Monday, moments after the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 ruling, saying that closely held for-profit companies -- those controlled by a small number of individuals -- do not have to provide contraceptives, sterilization or abortifacients to their employees as required by the Obama administration.

"Obamacare's contraceptive mandate was always unconstitutional, and I'm glad the Supreme Court defended this most fundamental freedom today," said Vitter, who -- along with three other Republican senators -- filed a friend-of-the-court brief challenging the mandate.Perkins expressed the hope that the lower courts will follow the Supreme Court's lead and protect non-profits from the contraception mandate.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the ruling "another defeat for an administration that has repeatedly crossed constitutional lines in pursuit of its Big Government objectives." Boehner said the Democrats' health care law "remains an unworkable mess and a drag on our economy," and he once again called for its repeal.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Obamacare "the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years," and he said he was glad to see the Supreme Court rule that the regulation requiring free birth control violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”

'Disappointed'

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic Party, said she is "disappointed and deeply concerned" by the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans have gained access to preventive services without out-of-pocket costs, including birth control. However, this decision takes money out of the pockets of women and their families and allows for-profit employers to deny access to certain health care benefits based on their personal beliefs."

Schultz slammed Republicans for siding "against women" on this particular issue -- just as they have "consistently opposed a women's right" to abortion.

But not all women agree.

"American woman already had plentiful access to contraception before HHS created this burdensome employer mandate through ObamaCare," said the Independent Women's Forum, a free-market group that supported Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities Corp.

“This case was about much more than contraception. It was about the principles of liberty that animate our Constitution. It was about empowering women to choose the healthcare and salary options that best fit their needs. And it was about employers, many of them women, being able to follow their deeply held religious beliefs," said IWF's Hadley Heath Manning.

Manning also noted the unintended consequences of Obamacare's contraception mandate: "By removing price competition from birth control markets, the mandate would have driven up the cost of drugs for women who remain uninsured, and may have discouraged condom use among those who are insured. We are thankful that the Court ruled today that closely-held corporations will not be required to follow this misguided policy."