Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Today in Liberty: Harry Reid doesn’t care about religious liberty, Ted Cruz wants a voter fraud investigation in Mississippi

“When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin

— Harry Reid plans to address Hobby Lobby: Though Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says the Senate will tackle legislation to address the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case in the coming weeks. He didn’t offer specifics, but The Hill notes this morning that Democrats on Capitol Hill are planning to introduce legislation before that August recess to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and reverse the decision. “At least three pieces of legislation being prepared by Democrats would help maintain access to free birth control for women affected by the court’s ruling,” The Hill explains, “though staffers provided few details on Monday.” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is reportedly “leading the push in the upper chamber.” Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL) plans to introduce legislation to require employers to disclose whether prescription birth control is covered by in their plans. That legislation is odd given that Hobby Lobby, for example, objected to two forms of over-the-counter birth control. Two House Democrats are also working on legislation to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The measures being crafted by congressional Democrats have no chance of passage, but this is a wedge issue, so they’re going to play it up to motivate their base. Because politics and elections.

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.

Supreme Court to hear contraception mandate cases

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments tomorrow in two casesSebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialities v. Sebelius — dealing with Obamacare’s controversial contraception mandate.

Though there are some religious exemptions to the mandate, there are no carve outs for businesses that base their operations on their religious beliefs, leaving them to face hefty, potentially crippling fines if they refuse to offer health insurance coverage that covers contraceptives.

The case that has received the most attention is that of Hobby Lobby Stores. David Green, the owner and founder of the crafts chain, argues that the contraception mandate violates his religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) because it would force his businesses to offer plans that cover the morning after pill, which, he believes, is tantamount to abortion.

The argument at hand, however, isn’t about abortion, though supporters of the mandate are trying to make it about women’s health. The question is whether the RFRA, which protects an individual’s right to freely exercise their religion, applies to businesses and corporations because of the objections of the owners.

Filings in the case explain that Green runs his business “with religious principles in mind” and points to the company’s mission statement, which commits to “[h]onoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

Christian colleges win court challenge over Obamacare’s contraception mandate

The Obama Administration received another legal blow today over a controversial rule requiring that employers — including many faith-based schools and businesses — provide health plans that cover emergency birth control.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Rosenthal ruled in favor of two Texas-based colleges — East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University — that challenged the contraceptive mandate on the grounds that it violated religious freedom protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). He also issued an injunction against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from enforcing the mandate.

“The courts have identified several ‘less restrictive means’ of serving the interests the government has identified than a total denial of the religious exemption request,” wrote Rosenthal, who serves on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He identified a few different ways to provide contraception to employees without the mandate.

“The result is to find and conclude that plaintiffs have shown both a substantial likelihood of succeeding on the merits of their claim that the mandate and accommodation substantially burden the plaintiffs’ religious exercise and the absence of a genuine factual dispute material to this determination,” he noted. “The government has failed to show that the mandate and accommodation are the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling government interest.”

In granting the injunction, Rosenthal explained that “[p]rotecting constitutional rights and the rights under RFRA are in the public’s interest.”

Supreme Court to hear case over Obamacare’s contraception mandate

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a case over Obamacare’s contraception mandate, a requirement on employers to provide health plans that cover emergency birth control, and its implications on religious liberty.

Hobby Lobby Stores, a craft chain with 578 stores and more than 13,000 employees, filed a lawsuit against the contraception mandate in September 2012, claiming that it violated the religious liberty of the owner and founder of the company, David Green, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).

Filings in the case — Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores — explain that Green runs his business “with religious principles in mind” and points to the company’s mission statement, which commits to “[h]onoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

The contraceptive mandate would include coverage for the morning after pill, Plan B and Ella, which Green believes is tantamount to abortion. Hobby Lobby claims that it could face fines of $475 million each year for non-compliance.

“If Hobby Lobby instead drops employee insurance altogether, it will face severe disruption to its business, significant competitive disadvantages in hiring and retaining employees, as well as penalties totaling $26 million per year,” said the brief filed by the company.

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