Photo: Pro-life demonstrators celebrate June 30 outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington as its decision in the Hobby Lobby case is announced. The high court ruled that owners of closely held corporations can object on religious grounds to being forced by t he government to provide coverage of contraceptives for their employees. (CNS photo/ Jonathan Ernst)

Court leaves open whether ‘accommodation’ violates RFRA

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today, June 30, in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties means “justice has prevailed,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. The Court ruled that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “preventive services” mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as applied to these employers to the extent that it would have forced them to provide insurance coverage for drugs and devices that violate their religious convictions on respect for human life. The statement follows:

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize that Americans can continue to follow their faith when they run a family business. In this case, justice has prevailed, with the Court respecting the rights of the Green and Hahn families to continue to abide by their faith in how they seek their livelihood, without facing devastating fines. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build a culture that fully respects religious freedom.

“The Court clearly did not decide whether the so-called ‘accommodation’ violates RFRA when applied to our charities, hospitals and schools, so many of which have challenged it as a burden on their religious exercise. We continue to hope that these great ministries of service, like the Little Sisters of the Poor and so many others, will prevail in their cases as well.”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights,  issued the following comment on the ruling.

“Today’s victory is welcomed by true advocates of the First Amendment. However, because of the unremitting hostility this administration has shown to religious liberty, especially in its lust for abortion rights, Congress needs to pass the Health Care Rights of Conscience Act.

“Today’s ruling has important implications. It recognizes, for the first time, that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) applies to “closely held” businesses, or corporations owned by a few people. This law prohibits the federal government from any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion, unless that action is the least restrictive way of serving a compelling government interest.

“Practically speaking, the ruling will have a limited effect on private sector employers. The vast majority of Americans work for companies that already provide for most forms of contraceptive coverage, including abortifacients. Nonetheless, this decision will further disable ObamaCare: Over 100 million are already exempt, and now we can add “Hobby Lobby” type businesses to the list. Not for nothing does Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fear that this ruling may cause “havoc” to ObamaCare. Hope she’s right.

“Politically speaking, the ruling will have a dramatic effect: it sends an unmistakable message to the Obama administration that it cannot continue to run roughshod over the religious liberty rights of Americans.

“Critics of Hobby Lobby have been trotting out horror stories about what will happen if their side loses. Nonsense. RFRA was passed 21 years ago, and no horror stories have been recorded. Scare tactics don’t work.

“Next up are the Catholic non-profits. We’ll win on that one, too, only by a much bigger margin.”