Monday, June 30, 2014

Understanding Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

After the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby there’s been quite a bit of rancor and misinformation regarding the decision thrown about by individuals and organizations which don’t believe in or understand conscience rights and religious freedom of employers. 

Here’s Sarah Torre explaining the results:
Passed by Congress in 1993 by broad, bipartisan majorities, RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] protects Americans from substantial burdens on religious freedom unless the government can show it has a compelling government interest and does so in the least restrictive way possible. That’s a high bar and one the Obama Administration failed to meet under this mandate.

Today’s decision is a strong rejection of the Obama’s administration’s faulty argument that Americans’ religious freedom ends when they open a family business. The government cannot unreasonably force Americans to set aside their beliefs simply because they go into business to provide for themselves, their families, and their employees......

To be clear, the decision today applies only to the coercive Obamacare rule that was threatening the religious freedom of the Greens’ and Hahns’ family businesses. Other claims for religious exemptions by closely-held family businesses from other laws will have to be litigated on a case-by-case basis. RFRA doesn’t provide a blank check for religious believers to do whatever they want in the name of religion and neither does today’s decision.

While the ruling applies only to Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, some individuals seem to think this ruling is part of the “War on Women.”

For example, Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Gary Peters showed a complete misunderstanding of the ruling and its implications.  In a blog post, the Peters campaign writes,

U.S. Senate Candidate Gary Peters strongly opposes today’s decision because he believes that women should be making their health care decisions with their doctors without interference from their employers.       

The ruling does nothing to prevent women from making health care decisions with her doctors.  It merely says that if a woman is employed by an employer whose religious convictions tell them covering certain types of contraceptives violates their conscience then the employees can pay for their own contraceptives. 

The blog post continues by saying Congressman Peters is “very concerned that today’s decision will turn back the clock on Michigan women who should be in charge of their health care decisions.”

The reality is that the mandate requiring employers to cover the birth control of their employees didn’t take place for new insurance plans until August 1, 2012.  So Peters is fearful that the Supreme Court is taking Hobby Lobby employees back the “stone age” of July 2012? 

Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement claiming,

The ruling tells millions of women today that despite what our doctors tell us is best for our health, we must abide by what our employers say they're willing to provide us instead.
Women who desire to use contraceptives can still do so.  The federal government simply can’t force the owners of Hobby Lobby to violate their religious consciences and require them to cover all 20 different kinds of contraceptives (Hobby Lobby willingly covers 16 of the 20 different types of contraceptives but chooses not to cover those chemicals or devices which may have abortifacient effects).

The world is not ending.  The sky is not falling.  Contraceptives will still be available and covered by the vast majority of employers. 

It is sad when our public officials have such a limited understanding of Supreme Court cases and results and use their positions to badly misinform their constituents.