The Supreme Court just handed a huge victory to Hobby Lobby: Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate violates religious liberty

Hobby Lobby

The Supreme Court ruled this morning that closely-held corporations with religious beliefs are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and do not have to comply with Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.

In the 5 to 2 decision, the High Court explained that the federal government cannot compel Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties, through tax penalties, to provide contraceptive coverage that they believe is morally unacceptable according to their religious beliefs.

“As we have seen, [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] was designed to provide very broad protection for religious liberty. By enacting RFRA, Congress went far beyond what this Court has held is constitutionally required,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “Is there any reason to think that the Congress that enacted such sweeping protection put small-business owners to the choice that HHS suggests? An examination of RFRA’s text…reveals that Congress did no such thing.”

Alito explained that the business owners in the case make no objection to most forms of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but rather the four methods — Plan B, Ella, and two forms of IUDs — that they believe prevent the fertilization of an egg. The business owners consider these to be tantamount to abortion and fundamentally inconsistent with their religious beliefs.

The opinion was written narrowly, applying only to businesses that are closely-held, including family-owned businesses. This means major, publicly-traded companies cannot claim religious liberty under RFRA to avoid the contraceptive mandate.

“Although HHS has made this system available to religious nonprofits that have religious objections to the contraceptive mandate,” Alito noted, “HHS has provided no reason why the same system cannot be made available when the owners of for-profit corporations have similar religious objections.”

“We therefore conclude that this system constitutes an alternative that achieves all of the Government’s aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty,” he continued. “And under RFRA, that conclusion means that enforcement of the HHS contraceptive mandate against the objecting parties in these cases is unlawful.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas joined Alito in the majority in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. Kennedy penned a concurring opinion.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the dissent for the minority, which includes Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan agreed in part, but authored a separate dissent in which they wrote that they “need not and do not decide whether either for-profit corporations or their owners may bring claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.”

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.