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U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favour of Hobby Lobby
In 5-4 Decision, Court Says Family Businesses May Claim Religious Exemption from Mandate on Contraception Coverage
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 30, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Religious groups in the United States are celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision today which has ruled that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer contraception coverage in their worker health plans.
The justices voted 5-4 in favour of family-run businesses, including the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., saying that on religious grounds they do not have to mandate the free provision of contraception to their employees, according to Bloomberg News.
The court majority concluded that the Obama administration failed to prove that the so-called HHS mandate is the least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing the provision of free access to contraception in health insurance plans.
It also said the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires that closely held companies receive the same accommodation the administration has already granted to nonprofit organizations that object to the mandate on religious grounds.
The ruling is a significant advance in the expansion of corporate rights, showing that for-profit companies as well as individuals can claim religious freedoms under federal law.
Safeguarding the religious rights of corporations "protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court.
Bloomberg News said the case divided the court along ideological lines. Alito's majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.
The case centered on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the U.S. government may "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" only when it meets a demanding test.
The Obama administration argued that the law doesn't cover corporations and that the government's interests outweighed any religious rights the corporations possess.
Responding to today's decision, Human Life International President Father Shenan J. Boquet said the full implications of this decision are not yet known, but this appears to be "at least some good news in the fight for religious freedom."
"What many found deeply disturbing about this case was not only the assault on religious freedom, but the manipulation of scientific facts in order to support a radical political agenda promoting abortion," he said in a statement.
"There's scientific consensus that when sperm meets egg and fertilization occurs, a new human life begins. Yet we see our own government and pro-abortion lobbyist groups like American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) play games with the words 'fertilization,' 'conception,' 'pregnancy,' and even 'abortion' to make it seem as though the drugs and devices in question in the Hobby Lobby case don't kill innocent human life-when it's scientific fact that they can, and do destroy new life in the womb."
Fr. Boquet said not only does the "HHS contraception/sterilization/abortifacient mandate seek to undermine our God-given freedom to practice our faith, the mandate furthers U.S. government support for the greatest human rights abuse in history, using taxpayer dollars to kill preborn human life.
"There's no doubt that legal action will continue on this mandate, and the many other troubling provisions of Obamacare," Fr. Boquet said. "The American people must make clear to our elected representatives that we will not allow our religious liberty to be violated by our own government, especially in pursuit of an immoral agenda that furthers the erosion of human rights, and ends human lives."
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