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Friday, October 28, 2016

By David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s conservative justices sharply criticized part of President Barack Obama’s health care law Tuesday, suggesting they will rule later this year that requiring Christian-owned corporations to offer their employees contraceptives coverage violates the freedom of religion.

“Your reasoning would permit requiring profit-making corporations to pay for abortions,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who defended the contraceptives provision of the Affordable Care Act.

The administration’s lawyer warned that the court would be adopting a “dangerous principle” if it gave employers a right to exempt themselves from federal laws based on their religious beliefs.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. countered that Congress had passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993 to require special exemptions based on religion.

The women justices — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — spoke in support of the Obama administration’s rule. They agreed with Verrilli that it would cause problems if employers were permitted to refuse to pay for benefits based on religion.

“You would see religious objectors come out of the woodwork,” Kagan said.

But the five conservative justices sounded as if they stood in opposition to the contraceptives mandate.

The justices were hearing a politically charged clash over a provision under Obamacare that requires all new health insurance plans pay for contraceptives, including the “morning after” pill and intrauterine devices, or IUDs.

Catholic bishops and some evangelical Christians opposed this rule, arguing that it forces employers to be complicit in what they consider to be a sin by paying for drugs that may destroy a fertilized egg.

The administration and women’s rights advocates say contraceptives are a basic health right for women, preventing both unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

The case also raises the question of whether for-profit corporations can invoke the religious beliefs of their owners in order to seek an exemption from federal law.

David and Barbara Green, founders of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores, sued and won an exemption from a lower court.

Verrilli argued that for-profit corporations do not have a right to religious liberty that trumps federal law.

But Paul Clement, the former solicitor general under President George W. Bush, defended the Greens and argued that they had followed their faith in operating the Hobby Lobby stores.

Photo: Clarissa Peterson via Flickr

  • Stuart

    Christians think they are above the law.

    Further, all private persons and corporations will be able to claim religious exemption from all secular laws.

    The Supreme Court, rather than upholding the Constitution, will issue the license to destroy it.

    • JPHALL

      Sad but true!

    • dpaano

      I think that’s what the conservatives secretly want to happen……

  • ps0rjl

    God save me from the Christians. If the Supreme Court sides with the owners of Hobby Lobby, then how long before the owners can require all employees to follow the owners religious beliefs as a requirement for employment? If the Supreme Court sides with the owners of Hobby Lobby, then we will certainly be seeing the start of the Christian Taliban.

    • latebloomingrandma

      Welcome to the theocracy. The question is—which denomination is establishing the “rules”?

      • ps0rjl

        I agree with you. I have always said that if religious people suddenly can control our lives, the real battle wont be between us atheist/agnostics and the Christians but rather between the different sects to see whose religion is imposed.

  • constancespinney

    Imagine your boss dictating to YOU what you can or can’t do in your private life. Go on, think about it. If this court, ruled by Catholics, decides to rule against our freedom, consider who it was that put these dictators into their positions of power. This country was formed so people could have incividual rights, and giving any “boss” the right to deny health care to ANYONE is a VENAL SIN – in THEIR language.

  • paulyz

    Religious freedom is our 1st. Right, while Obamacare is a policy. If religious freedoms were denied in this case, there will be future infringement on these Rights. As for the Supreme Court, Kagen should recuse herself as she is an ardent supporter of Obamacare & this is a flagrant conflict of interests. If people would like to allow violations of our Liberties in this case, that would open the door to further abuses to others that many on here would not like to see happen.

    • johninPCFL

      Great. So Christian Scientist owned businesses don’t have to buy insurance at all, Jehovah’s Witness owned businesses can deny their employees any treatments using blood products (think: hemophilia), and Jewish owned businesses can fire employees who eat pork.

      • dpaano

        Yep…..that that just sounds TOO logical for the Supreme Court to understand!!

    • Grannysmovin

      First, Thomas never recused himself and his wife fought against the ACA law, and both he and Scallia attend events hosted by the Koch Brothers who are major contributors to the attacks against the ACA law and they themselves have been vocally opposed to the law. Do you see the conflict of interest there? Hobby Lobby wants a separation between their business and their personal finances, hence they formed a Corporation which protects their personal finances and assets from the Corporations liabilities. However, now they want to merge their personal beliefs with their business entity, if the courts agree with them, than they should no longer be afforded the protection personally from the business liabilities. Than I would hope every woman they employ sues the Corporation and the owners for sexual discrimination pertaining to their health care issues. The owners of Hobby Lobby have no right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

      • latebloomingrandma

        We grannies think alike.

      • Joyce

        Thank you Granny!

    • ps0rjl

      Paulyz, listen closely. No one is denying you the right to practice your religion. What this case hinges on is do you have the right to impose your religious beliefs on others just because they work for you. Also if you own a corporation, do you have the right to impose your religious beliefs on the corporations employees.

    • latebloomingrandma

      Although self-righteousness may be an individual right —to think you know best for all—it does not extend to the rest of us, if we prefer to be free, which IS a right–to think and decide for ourselves. And a health care plan is a benefit, like a paycheck, given to an employee for labor performed in the place of business. Period. By the way, whatever happened to privacy of medical information?. Isn’t the right to be secure in your person and papers in the 4th amendment? Can an employer soon decide how an employee uses their paycheck? After all they gave it to them.

    • raginyank

      ACA is not a policy it is the law

    • JSquercia

      I am not obligated to adhere to my bosses religion violates my because THAT my First Amendment Rights .
      I am a Catholic but find the churches position intolerable . they speak of the Natural law but doesn’t the Natural law mean that when a man can’t get it up he should no longer have sex rather than use artificial means such as Viagra or a mechanical device such as a Penal Pump
      The WORST thin that happened to the church in my lifetime was the death of Pope John XXIII . Had he lived the rule on contraception would been changed

      • whodatbob

        @JSquercia – Thank you! You are correct about some Church positions being intolerable, the ones you mentioned sure are, but not all.

    • Joyce

      paulyz – i see your comments here quite often and it’s the same old same old. Please go away. You don’t belong here. Please frequent your FAUX NEWS network of you want to spew your hypocrisy.

    • Allan Richardson

      WHOSE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM? This is what the three great monotheistic religions have had to ask for thousands of years, and only in the last 2 centuries or so have Christians (and Jews and Muslims and everyone else) lived under governments which strive to be NEUTRAL about religion. If the employer’s “freedom” to dictate the employee’s use of benefits is assumed, that would take away from the freedom of the employee. Benefits are part of your salary, actually, and unless an employee’s choices cost the employer MORE money (which is NOT the case here), they are none of the employer’s business. If you work for an Amish merchant, you cannot be forced to trade in your car for a horse-drawn buggy in order to work there. If you work for a Jehovah’s Witness, you cannot be denied coverage for blood transfusions. If you work for a Muslim or Jewish owned business, you are free to buy bacon or lobster with your paycheck after you get it. But if the court decides that Hobby Lobby’s owners’ “religious freedom” includes the freedom to force their workers to live according to that religion, all of those ridiculous examples COULD be imposed. Even the banning of blood transfusions, which would COST MANY LIVES (very few people can afford to pay for blood out of pocket, and hospitals would only use it as a last resort if they knew the patient’s insurance dd not cover it).

      The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of the 1990s, the basis for this case, came out of a case in which a state employer imposed drug use policies which, along with state and federal laws, stopped workers from using peyote and other sacred mushrooms on their own time for religious purposes. Now it seems that the Scalia court could permit an employer who uses mushrooms to FORCE HIS WORKERS to use mushrooms also, regardless of their religion.

      NOW do you get it, Antonin?

  • howa4x

    If they do this they will insure a democratic victory in the 2016 presidential campaign. Women will wake up in a hurry and come out in droves to vote against republicans. If the justices rule in June then this will be a hot issue for democrats to seize on and pound conservatives with. Republicans will finally have to take a position on denying pre marital sex or sex for pleasure. that should go over well

  • roguerunners

    I’m sorry, did I miss something? When did a hobby store start being considered a CHURCH?

  • manesandtails1

    I think Justice Kennedy who is typically the ‘swing vote’ will vote with the women on the Bench.

    • dpaano

      Let’s hope!!!

    • JSquercia

      Not judging from that quote in the article .Does Hobby Lobby want to stop covering treatment for ED.I was astonished to find out Medicare really pays for Penal Pumps

    • whodatbob

      You hit the nail on the head. I am not sure Roberts will vote with the conservatives.

      This article seem to have accomplished it’s mission all the liberals are upset because a biased piece infers that conservatives will win.


  • dpaano

    WHat the hell is going on with our government lately, and our Supreme Court!! In the past 20-30 years, things have happened in our country that are just unbelievable! The Supreme Court, full of idiot conservatives pushed in by Bush and his cohorts, have come down with some of the MOST RIDICULOUS rulings EVER! Why in heck are the Republicans and conservatives, in general, so against women and their medical choices…’s NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS WHAT WE DO WITH OUR BODIES!! As for this particular case, if Hobby Lobby has a problem with their faith getting in the way of their business, perhaps they shouldn’t have gone into a business that caters to the public! I know, for me, I will NEVER set foot in a Hobby Lobby EVER again. I guess I’m just appalled and angry at what has become of our country lately……its getting more and more ridiculous. Heck, a woman Senator in Kansas just tried to pass a bill that forced women to “register” miscarriages and “explain why it happened.” How dumb is that!!! It’s just f… amazing at how this has gone on for so long!!! Are there ANY intelligent people running this country?

    • jabber1

      The TpubliCONs took over starting with St. Ronnie Raygun and his merry band of thieves who made a pact with the devil (the fundamentalist evangelicals) to take over the government.

  • Jambi

    So Hobby Lobby has become the “Holy of Holiness” in the land of reproductive freedom….These people need to keep their religious Mumbo-
    Jumbo principles to themselves and allow secular society to go forward…

  • jabber1

    I am outraged by the thought that a business owner can dictate what coverage is required by law because it disturbs his intolerant asshole views. This is horrid. We must take this country back from the insane taligban/christian fundies that stole the country. And we need to take our country back from the corporate whores and the banksters. Go to Move to Amend. Support this cause. Hit the streets. Call every politician. Write letters to the editors.

  • Pamby50

    This is just another reason why democrats need to get out and vote. It is the President that gets to nominate people to the Supreme Court. That we have Justice’s Sonia Sotomayer, Elena Kagan & Ruth Ginsburg going to bat for women’s right is not enough. We need to get 2 more on our side.