PHOTO: The front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. (CNS file photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)
◊ Court to hear challenges from Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood
◊ Court will decide whether family-owned companies can exercise religion
◊ Individuals and families who own businesses seek to practice their faith in daily life
WASHINGTON—Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Nov. 26 to hear arguments in the cases of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties. The U.S. government and the Hahn family, Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood, a cabinet-making company, respectively, petitioned the Supreme Court to review these cases. The Court will consider the legality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “preventive services” mandate, which requires virtually all employers to include female sterilization and all drugs and devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as contraceptives in their employee health care plans.
“The Supreme Court’s review of these cases highlights the importance of this conflict between the federal government and people seeking to practice their faith in daily life,” said Archbishop Lori. “We pray that the Supreme Court will find that the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protect everyone’s right to religious freedom. We are encouraged by the advances in the lower federal courts so far in cases involving family-owned companies as well as non-profit religious organizations. On behalf of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, I would like to thank all of the litigants—including those who run diocesan service ministries as well as the lay faithful who run closely-held businesses—for their courageous actions in seeking religious liberty in courts around the country.”
The HHS mandate requires family-owned businesses like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood to cover abortifacient and contraceptive drugs and devices in their employee health care plans, even if providing those particular items violates the religious beliefs of the individuals who own and operate the company. In a unanimous “Special Message” on the HHS mandate issued last month, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed their opposition to a mandate that “compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.”
These cases are among at least 84 lawsuits filed by over 200 plaintiffs against the HHS mandate.