WASHINGTON (BP) -- The Supreme Court on Monday (June 30) struck down a key mandate of the Affordable Care Act, ruling for the first time "closely held" companies may exercise their religious opinions and conscientiously object to providing abortion-inducing contraceptives to employees through their health insurance plans.
Writing for the majority in Burwell (Sebelius) v. Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito claimed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) provides individually or family-owned businesses, such as Hobby Lobby, with protections against government mandates that violate religious conscience.
"Our responsibility is to enforce the RFRA as written, and under the standard the RFRA prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful," Alito wrote. In finding in favor of Hobby Lobby, the Court affirmed the ruling of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and reversed the verdict of the Third Circuit.
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, shared his thoughts on the ruling. "We are indeed thankful for the recent ruling from the Supreme Court," he said. "It is an absolute victory for the proponents of religious liberty. I am thankful that both common sense and conscience have seen a victory in a day where such victories are rare. For those who are strongly pro-life, I think this is a great day!"
Ronnie Floyd, newly elected president of the SBC, added, "I am thrilled at the ruling because it affirms that religious liberty is a core value of our great nation. The American people won a great victory today against governmental overreach. It serves as a strong reminder to each of us, that the First Amendment extends to individuals and business owners, not just to churches and other houses of worship."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the ruling was an "exhilarating victory for religious freedom," due in large part to the fact Hobby Lobby owners David and Barbara Green, along with their children, had "refused to render to Caesar that which did not belong to him."
"As a Baptist, I am encouraged that our ancestors' struggle for the First Amendment has been vindicated. This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets with joy," Moore said.
Hobby Lobby filed suit in federal court after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. Under the law, the company was required to provide insurance coverage for nearly 20 forms of contraception, including four that resulted in abortions. One of those was the "morning after pill," which causes the spontaneous abortion of an implanted, fertilized egg. Since the company's owners believe life begins at conception, they objected on religious grounds and were threatened with massive fines for non-compliance with the ACA.
Mardel Christian Bookstores, founded by Mart Green, joined the case with Hobby Lobby, and in a separate case, Norman and Sam Hahn, owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, also challenged the ACA's contraceptive mandate in court.
Both Conestoga and Hobby Lobby lost their pleas for injunction in district court, and the Third Circuit upheld the denial of the injunctions. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed the decision, setting the cases on a path to the U.S. Supreme Court. Read More