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Supreme Court rules for Hobby Lobby, but religious liberty still at risk

30 Jun 2014 11:23 AM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)

In a great win for religious liberty, the Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the honest religious convictions of for-profit companies.  In its RFRA analysis, the Court assumed for the sake of argument that the government had a compelling interest in providing contraception, and held that the government violated RFRA because there were less restrictive ways of achieving its interest in providing contraception.  Find the opinion here.

 

The decision does not portend much helpful news about the Catholic non-profit organizations' suits against the contraception mandate, because the Court was not presented with whether HHS's accommodation to non-profit organizations satisfies RFRA.  Hobby Lobby, as a for-profit company, did not receive the accommodation, and thus the Court only ruled that RFRA prohibited the bare mandate.  The Court actually used the accommodation as an example of how the government could have been more sensitive to religious liberty, in support of its point that the government had less restrictive means to achieve its interests.  The Court, however, carefully stated that it was not deciding whether the accommodation satisfied RFRA in the face of other religious claims.  But, Justice Kennedy's separate concurrence seems to reveal his opinion that the accommodation cures the mandate's violation of religious beliefs (which is exactly what HHS wants the Court to think).  Kennedy opined, "Th[e] accommodation equally furthers the Government’s interest but does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs."

 

Let's pray that this opinion prompts Pres. Obama to drop the mandate on religious objectors, instead of sticking to his accommodation.  Because even with this great victory for religious liberty, the result of the accommodation cases still looks unsure.

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