Hobby Lobby Case Could Have Impact on Contraceptives and Health Insurance

The Supreme Court heard the oral arguments of Hobby Lobby, a national chain of crafts stores based in Oklahoma City, and its opposition. The debate started in September of 2012 when the Green family, who are the devout Christian owners of Hobby Lobby and other members of the company, filed a suit in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Oklahoma.

According to PBS.org, the suit argued against the mandate by the Affordable Care Act and the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) which requires companies to include coverage of 20 forms of government approved contraceptives in their health insurance.

The owners of Hobby Lobby reject four of the contraceptive methods because they believe they work like forms of abortion. They also argue that their religious rights have been violated by the mandate because it forces them to take part of something that they believe goes against their faith. Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby said an interview with PBS that, “This is an issue of life. We cannot be a part of taking life. To be in a situation where our government is telling us we have to be is incredible.”

Dr. Joseph Patten, Chair of the Political Science Department, said that the legislation that is most relevant to this case is the two clauses on religion found in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

The first clause is the Establishment Clause that states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Although the Establishment Clause was created to prevent federal or state governments from establishing a certain religion, it could be debated whether or not corporations can establish a certain religion as well.

In his interview with PBS, the CEO of Hobby Lobby, David Green said, “There’s no way we are taking anyone’s rights away. It is our rights that have been infringed upon, to require us to do something that is against our conscience.”

The other clause regarding religion in the Constitution that Professor Patten mentioned was the Free Exercise Clause, which directly follows the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. Right after the part where it bans the Congress from establishing religion, it states, “…, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is the part that Patten pointed out as most relevant to this case. Patten brought up two examples of how Native Americans were banned from using the drug peyote, even though they used it in religious rituals. Another example he used was how the practice of polygamy was banned even though it was part of the Mormon religion.

For that particular reason, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed in 1993. The law states that the federal government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless it is “the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest.” According to the law, there are certain exceptions based on religious beliefs that may cause controversy.

Some of the biggest supporters of the Hobby Lobby owners are the members of the Christian religion. According to a poll on Gallup.com, 77 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians.

Professor Linda Flaming, an associate professor of accounting and leader of the Christian Ambassadors Club, said, “As a Christian, my position agrees with the owners of Hobby Lobby. But this issue does not just affect Christians, but believers of any faith who want the freedom to live by their beliefs.” Flaming said, “Preventative contraception is not the concern, but I have researched the issue, and I can see no other origin of a person’s life than at conception, thus, the “morning after” and a week “after” methods are potentially being applied to a conceived life and I do not support their use.”

Father Richard Tomlinson, the University Campus Champlain said, “Catholic moral teaching holds that contraception is contradictory to the nature and purpose of human sexuality.” He also said, “I do think the Hobby Lobby owners have a fair case. Of course, their objection is not to contraception but to drugs which induce abortions. Abortion is often discussed in relation to contraception, but it is a separate moral and legal issue.” Tomlinson continued, “Christianity and many other faiths have traditionally held that abortion is (at least in most instances) contrary to the moral law.”

Jay Donofrio, a sophomore, said, “I am not against contraception but I am against the government forcing companies to pay for it if it goes against their religion.” According to PBS, this case may not get a final ruling until the end of June.

IMAGE TAKEN from www.freep.com