WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on January 28 filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. In both cases, family-owned businesses are challenging the legality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that forces virtually all employers to include in their employee health plans coverage of sterilization, contraceptives, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions, as well as related education and counseling.
The USCCB explained in its amicus brief that it opposes “any rule that would require faithful Catholics and other religiously motivated business owners to choose between providing coverage for products and speech that violate their religious beliefs, and exposing their businesses to devastating penalties.” These penalties include “potentially fatal fines” of $100 a day per affected individual.
The brief reflects and implements the U.S. bishops’ consistent support for litigants from the non-profit and for-profit sectors alike who have challenged the HHS mandate in court.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, stated that “Catholics believe that the right to religious freedom proceeds from the inherent dignity of each and every human person, and that includes people who run businesses. They should not be specially excluded from the freedom to practice their faith in daily life.”
The amicus brief argued that religious exercise cannot, and should not, be excluded from the marketplace; that the mandate substantially burdens Hobby Lobby’s and Conestoga’s religious exercise; and that the mandate cannot survive strict scrutiny review by the Court.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are among over 90 lawsuits filed by more than 300 plaintiffs challenging the HHS mandate in courts around the country.
The brief is available online: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/amicus-13-354-13-356-sebelius-hobby-lobby-conestoga-wood.pdf
U.S. Supreme Court building photo: CNS file photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec