By Jeni Miller
The U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in the twin cases, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell, June 30, ruling in favor of religious liberty.
In the landmark case, the court ruled that closely held corporations (those with a small number of shareholders and offering no public stock, such as corporations that are family-owned and not operated by boards) can claim a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they provide health-insurance coverage for some contraceptives. These corporations, in other words, cannot be required to provide contraception coverage.
Since the decision was a narrow win of 5-4, understanding the dissenting opinions is important. The LCMS will continue in the days and weeks ahead to thoroughly read and understand the court’s decision and what it means for the future.
While the LCMS rejoices in this strong upholding of religious freedom, this decision does not signal an end to the discussion, said LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.
“This ruling simply emboldens us to carry on, doing what we do best as Christians: praying, confessing the faith and living it out in our daily callings,” Harrison said. “We pray that Americans, whose consciences are burdened because they have been forced to violate their religious beliefs, would know God’s comfort and forgiveness. We confess that life, which begins at conception, is a gift from God and ought to be held in the highest regard in this country. We live, knowing that the First Amendment guarantees us not only the right to worship, but also to practice our faith as Lutheran citizens of this great nation, serving our neighbor where the Lord has placed us.”
Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit has been one of the most high-profile of nearly 100 cases involving the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate.
In June of 2013, the Obama administration issued final rules requiring most employers to provide contraception at no cost. While there are exemptions for religious groups and affiliated institutions, there were none for private businesses with religious owners.
The Hobby Lobby arts-and-crafts chain, owned by the Green family, and Conestoga Wood Specialties cabinetry company, owned by the Hahns, filed a federal lawsuit objecting to paying for the full range of birth-control drugs and devices required by the Affordable Care Act. To these Christian families, a handful of the methods they must cover could cause abortion.
In response, the administration asked the Supreme Court to decide if for-profit corporations can deny their employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.
However, the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act says that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.
According to Harrison, “The LCMS rejoices with the Greens of Hobby Lobby, with the Hahns of Conestoga Wood Specialties and with our millions of brothers and sisters in the United States who believe just as strongly in the religious liberties guaranteed in our Constitution. Today we are thankful for this step toward maintaining the integrity of our religious freedoms inherent in the First Amendment, but we will also remain ever mindful. The issue is and will continue to be purely and simply about religious freedom.”
Jeni Miller is interim public relations director for LCMS Communications.
Posted June 30, 2014 / Updated July 1, 2014