Blog Post

SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Hobby Lobby

In one of the most closely watched Supreme Court rulings since the decision regarding the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot force closely held corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties to provide birth control coverage if it violates their religious beliefs.

According to the SCOTUS blog, the 5-4 decision issued less than an hour ago ruled that for-profit corporations can hold religious views under federal law.  Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy joined in the majority decision. Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

The Court ruled that corporations are "persons" according to a federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and can have a religious "belief"; however the Court limited this decision to applying only to closely held corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, which will leave the question of whether larger corporations can do so for some other time.

The justices also ruled that the mandate violates a key stipulation in the RFRA that makes it necessary to prove that issuing the mandate was the least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to birth control.

The majority opinion sidesteps the issue most important to those non-profits who are still seeking relief from the mandate which is whether or not the government has a compelling interest in providing free birth control to women. However, the Justices specifically state that today's ruling does not apply to those cases.

"The Supreme Court has delivered one of the most significant victories for religious freedom in our generation," said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. "We are thankful the Supreme Court agreed that the government went too far by mandating that family businesses owners must violate their consciences under threat of crippling fines."

Americans “don’t give up their rights to religious freedom just because they open a family-run business,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Hobby Lobby. “This is a landmark decision for religious freedom. The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business.”

LifeNews.com is reporting that Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby, said her family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court's decision.

"Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles. The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey.”

As for how this case might impact upcoming cases filed by dozens of not-for-profit religious organizations, EWTN CEO and Chairman Michael P. Warsaw issued a more cautious statement:

“EWTN is extremely pleased with today’s Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case," Warsaw said. "The fact that the Court believes that the government has less restrictive means of accomplishing it’s goals is very helpful.  However, it remains unclear whether this decision addresses the serious objections that EWTN has raised with regard to the government’s 'accommodation' scheme for nonprofit faith-based organizations. We are consulting with our legal team to determine how this significant decision applies to EWTN and our pending case before the courts.”

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