Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court: "Closely Held For-Profit" Corporation Owners Have Religious Rights

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that "closely held" corporation owners have religious rights protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
(a) RFRA applies to regulations that govern the activities of closely held for-profit corporations like Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel. Pp. 16-31.
The Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) mandate requiring all for-profit employers to provide twenty free contraceptive types (including four which stop an already fertilized egg from developing) restricts the free exercise of religion. Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and Mardel were willing to pay for sixteen of the twenty which did not kill already fertilized eggs.
(b) HHS’s contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion. Pp. 31-38.
Even though the Court assumed the Government's argument that providing free contraceptives was of compelling state interest, the Court ruled that the Government had not used the "least restrictive means" to reach that goal.
(c) The Court assumes that the interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods is a compelling governmental interest, but the Government has failed to show that the contraceptive mandate is the least restrictive means of further that interest.  Pp. 38-49.
A significant problem for the Government was the fact that they had found a "least restrictive means" for religious and non-profit organizations. That there was a less restrictive means was shown by the Government itself in its "accommodation" for those religious and non-profit employers.
(c) (2) The Government has failed to satisfy RFRA’s least-restrictive-means standard. HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. The Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to no-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. That accommodation does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion and it sill serves HHS’s states interests. Pp. 40-45


MAX Redline said...

Amusingly, Lefties are foaming at the mouth because this ruling because it "eliminates womens' access to health care". The Sandra Fluke argument.

Really? Not forcing an employer to pay for abortions or contraception somehow "eliminates access"? Birth control pills are cheap. They're free to buy them. They're free to pay somebody to abort their kids. They just can't expect their employer - whom they choose to work for - to pay for it.

They're also free to find another job, or to start their own businesses.

But the employers in question will provide "well baby care", flu shots, and other health care.

T. D. said...

Sorry for the late response, Max. Interesting that not forcing an employer to pay for abortions or contraception "eliminates access" but so does not forcing religious groups and non-profits to pay for them--not to mention grandfathered plans and companies employing less than 50 people.

What about the access of all those people now not covered that the government apparently is not worried a whit about?

MAX Redline said...

Access to contraception isn't "taken away"; if they want it but can't afford to pay for it, numerous agencies such as Outside In, Planned Parenthood, and others provide no-cost access. In the Hobby Lobby case, it appears that they do, in fact, provide contraceptive coverage but were unwilling to pay for abortions or abortion-inducing drugs.So the general hand-wringing is all the more bizarre.

T. D. said...

Oh, but they have to have a "full" choice of options. All this while serious illness treatment, say of cancer or heart disease, is not free. It's tough luck when your life is in danger.

MAX Redline said...

As a guy who spent $35,000 fighting off a sarcoma, you can see why "free" birth control pills and "free" morning-after pills doesn't exactly resonate with me. Of course, I wasn't a professional college student at age 35, either - by that age, I'd been working for years (and socking money into a retirement account).

T. D. said...

Max, I thought of you in writing that comment. As you have said, you get a free breast pump but not free cancer coverage. Amazing that this is considered any kind of an issue.