Skip to comments.High court to weigh limits of religious liberty in O-Care case
Posted on 03/23/2014 2:09:56 PM PDT by jazusamo
President Obamas signature healthcare law is headed back to the Supreme Court in a high-stakes case that could redefine the limits of religious freedom in the United States.
The high court on Tuesday will hear challenges to ObamaCares contentious birth control mandate, which requires companies to offer contraceptive services to workers as part of their insurance coverage. If successful, the challenge could peel away a significant portion of the mandate, potentially affecting preventive health coverage for millions of women and striking a major blow to the law itself.
But the courts ruling could also have far-reaching implications for religious liberty by allowing companies to claim First Amendment rights that the government says are reserved for individuals.
Its pretty huge, said Laurie Sobel, a senior womens policy analyst at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Its hard to overstate the possible implications.
The case pits the government against a pair of for-profit companies the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and Conestoga Woods Specialties, a Pennsylvania-based cabinetmaker. The firms, who together employ thousands workers in nearly every state, say they should be exempted from the mandate to provide contraceptive coverage because the corporations owners object to it on religious grounds.
The two companies lawsuits among some 90 legal assaults on the contraception mandate were consolidated into a single case before the court. The firms cite both the First Amendments free exercise clause and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that, government shall not substantially burden a persons exercise of religion.
In defense of the mandate, the government argues that corporations are not people and therefore are not are not afforded free exercise rights.
The firms who could face millions of dollars worth of penalties if they are found subject to the regulations and refuse to abide call the mandate a clear government overstep.
Ultimately, whether it is the individuals, the corporations, or both who are exercising religion, the government cannot simply wish away the reality that its policies substantially burden Respondents religious exercise in a wholly unjustified manner, Hobby Lobby argues in a legal brief filed last month.
The mandate, imposed via regulations drafted under the Affordable Care Act, requires, with some notable exceptions, companies to cover 20 FDA-approved contraceptive methods to workers at no cost.
The services run the gamut from condoms and oral contraceptives to intrauterine devices (IUD) and surgical sterilization.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga do not object to regulations requiring them to cover the majority of the methods, which prevent pregnancy by blocking egg fertilization. The firms take exception with the Plan B or morning-after pill and the Ella, also known as the week-after pill, which block pregnancy by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
Conestoga is operated by a family that follows Mennonite beliefs, which say a persons intentional termination of a fertilized egg is intrinsic evil and a sin against God to which they are held accountable, according to an American Bar Association overview of the case. They oppose both Plan B and Ella.
The Christian family that runs Hobby Lobby, which believes life begins with the fertilization of an egg, argues their beliefs preclude offering coverage for either of those pills, or two kinds of IUDs.
The companies could face steep $100-a-day penalties for each employee if they violate the regulations. That works out to nearly $475 a year for Hobby Lobby, which covers more than 13,000 workers, Sobel said.
Conestoga, with 950 employees, would face penalties approaching $35 million annually.
Attorneys for the firms note that the government has already exempted houses of worship and companies with fewer than 50 employees from the regulations, and has provided additional accommodations for non-profits with direct religious affiliations that hold the same objections as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.
Thus, Hobby Lobbys brief argues, the regulations draw a distinction absent in the Constitution or the RFRA.
The governments effort to dismiss that burden as insubstantial is belied by the draconian fines for non-compliance and its willingness to accommodate others with the exact same beliefs, the firm charges.
But womens health advocates say a ruling in favor of the firms could lead to a spike in abortions by limiting access to birth control. The healthcare law, they argue, guarantees a womans choice of contraceptive method.
Access to no cost birth control allows women to choose whats best, not just whats cheapest, said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
The advocates say denying these services to women while allowing the full range of mens healthcare options is tantamount to discrimination.
They point to other court rulings that prohibit businesses from denying services based on religious beliefs.
They are out of bounds, they are out of touch, they are out of line, said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. And our bodies are not our bosses business.
If Hobby Lobby prevails, the weakened mandate would likely remain in place. But it could also bode well for a series of other cases winding their way through the courts on the mandate.
In the face of those cases, the mandate like ObamaCare in its entirety is threatened with death by a thousand cuts.
However, the government has multiple paths to victory in the case. First, it will attempt to convince the justices that a company is not, in the context of RFRA, a person capable of religious belief.
If the court disagrees, the government can still make the case that the firms are not substantially burdened by the regulations. And even if they are, that burden can be deemed acceptable if it comes as the result of a compelling government interest to protect womens health and that the goal is accomplished in the least restrictive way.
Failure on all of those counts could open the floodgates to a torrent of actions designed to bolster the religious rights of businesses, experts say.
The case comes to the Supreme Court on the heels of Arizonas debate over a law (approved by the state legislature, but ultimately vetoed) that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to any customer on the basis of their religious views.
Similar proposals have cropped up in Kansas, Oklahoma and elsewhere, Sobel said.
Theres a lot of stake here, said Yeshiva University law professor Marci A. Hamilton. This is the heart of the culture war.
The magnitude will be evident at the Supreme Court Tuesday, as was the case on the sweltering day in June of 2012 when throngs of ObamaCare supporters and opponents gathered for the courts decision to uphold the laws individual mandate.
This time around, proponents of the contraceptive mandate say their side alone will have as many as 1,000 supporters on hand.
We will be out in force at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Richards said.
“However, the government has multiple paths to victory in the case. First, it will attempt to convince the justices that a company is not, in the context of RFRA, a person capable of religious belief. “
Huh? I thought it was plan A from before which is threaten Roberts again?
Is it true that muzzies are exempted from signing up to Zerocare?
If so, why?
Never fear, a Supreme Court once bullied, will stay bullied.
Not sure...I’ve read in the past that they’re exempt but don’t know if it was just a part or in total.
I doubt that the first amendment was meant to constrain article I section 8. The argument that government is constrained was lost, and it strains credulity to think practitioners of organized religion deserve special consideration.
I didn’t stand up when the licentious lost their freedoms, because I wasn’t licentious. Yadda yadda. Tough. Deal with it.
The specific religious exemption in the law.
the “birth control mandate” is NOT part of the bill passed by congress, but a decision of “doctors” on an Obama appointed “health care panel” who mandated it. In other words, these unelected bureaucrats made the decision.
Not specifically. However, the law has a exemption provision for those adherents of a religion that has a 60-year (or longer) history and traditionally rejects any form of insurance including Social Security (the Amish, for instance). Muslims may well apply for this exemption and have it granted but not yet as that would trigger even more backlash against the Unaffordable Care Act.
Thanks, 0bama has completely adulterated this act and done exactly as he pleased while Congress (GOP controlled House) has stood by and watched.
Indeed they had the goods on Roberts adoption deal wonder what they have on the others?.
Is the Mafia learning from Obama&Co?.
Great point LadyDoc.
Given the remote possibility that you aren't aware of the following, you might find it interesting.
The Founding States had made the first numbered clauses in the Constitution, Sections 1-3 of Article I, evidently a good place to hide them from Congress and Obama, to clarify that all federal legislative powers are vested in the elected members of Congress and nowhere else. So Congress has a constitutional monopoly on federal legislitive powers whether it wants it or not imo.
So by unconstitutionally delegating federal legislative powers to nonelected bureaucrats, Congress is wrongly protecting federal legislative powers from the wrath of the voters in blatant defiance of the clauses referenced above.
And whats even even worse is that the States have never delegated to Congress, via the Constitution, the specific power to regulate, tax and spend for public healthcare purposes. So not only is Congress unconstitutonally delegating federal legislative powers to unelected bureaucrats, but Congress is delegating powers that it never had in the first place.
What a mess! :^(
This mandatory thing is only double dipping for PP.
People in America can even think that phrase?
If so, why?
It is true. Religious reasons. Islam is the only religion recognized by this Administration.
Government is not now constrained.
The controversy has already had its public phase a couple of years ago in MSM and even here. The paynim are exempt because of their religion.
I surely hope you’re right about the backlash to 0bama and Dems, religious beliefs take precedence on this issue in my view.