Bishops Laud Court's Hobby Lobby Ruling
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Supreme Court's June 30 ruling that certain businesses, based on their religious objections, can be exempted from a government requirement to include contraceptives in their employee health insurance coverage means "justice has prevailed," said two U.S. archbishops.
"We welcome the Supreme Court's decision to recognize that Americans can continue to follow their faith when they run a family business," said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., 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.
“During this Fortnight for Freedom across our country, called by U.S. bishops to proclaim the importance of religious liberty, the U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed the belief that a society dedicated to freedom and diversity must respect the freedom of its citizens to love and work in accordance with their religious convictions,” said Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville. “The Church has an obligation to serve, and so needs the freedom to serve. With that in mind, we hope for similar outcomes involving the many lawsuits brought across the country by Catholic dioceses and other religious entities that operate and manage nonprofit groups that are affected by the HHS mandate.”
The Supreme Court in its 5-4 ruling said that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, the two family-run companies that objected to the government mandate that employees be covered for a range of contraceptives, including drugs considered to be abortifacients, are protected from the requirement of the Affordable Care Act under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Although Catholic leaders and other religious groups hailed the decision as a victory for religious freedom, they also said the issue is not resolved since the government mandate requires nonprofit organizations such as Catholic charities, hospitals and schools to provide contraceptive coverage.
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the religious liberty law firm that represented Hobby Lobby before the Supreme Court, told reporters after the ruling that the court's decision bodes well for similar pending cases of nonprofit organizations.
He noted that the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito includes a footnote reference to the Little Sisters of the Poor's lawsuit, which he said indicates that the "government accommodation is not here for long." The Little Sisters of the Poor religious order has asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to extend an injunction blocking enforcement of the federal contraceptive mandate.
Just a few hours after the Supreme Court announcement, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta granted the EWTN Global Catholic Network – an Alabama-based Catholic nonprofit media provider – an injunction preventing the government from enforcing the HHS contraceptive services mandate against the network. The injunction allows EWTN to continue its court challenge of the mandate without incurring the fines of $35,000 per day that would have begun on July 1.
The Message staff and EWTN also provided information for this story.