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Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby on HHS mandate in 5-4 decision

Ben Johnson

Updated on June 20 at 3:15 p.m. EST.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning the U.S. Supreme Court decided closely held corporations with religious objections cannot be compelled to furnish potentially abortion-inducing drugs to their employees by a 5-4 decision.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) allows for closely-held corporations like Hobby Lobby to maintain their religious outlook and still do business, the majority ruled in a 49-page opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito. The law holds that government may only impose a mandate that burdens religious business owners' consciences if the government has a compelling interest in doing so and uses the least invasive means possible.

"We must next ask whether the HHS contraceptive mandate 'substantially burden[s]' the exercise of religion," the justices wrote. "We have little trouble concluding that it does."

"We reject HHS's arguments that the owners of the companies forfeited all RFRA protection when they decided to organize their businesses as corporations rather than sole proprietorships or general partnerships," they added. "The plain terms of RFRA make it perfectly clear that Congress did not discriminate in this way against men and women who wish to run their business as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs."

The ruling holds that the HHS mandate is not the least invasive alternative. "The mandate plainly fails that test," the opinion holds.

The five justices in the majority found it "unnecessary" to rule on whether the HHS mandate serves a compelling government interest, side-stepping the issue of whether assuring women's access to contraceptives is a common good. However, Justice Kennedy in his concurrence wrote "a premise of the Court's opinion is its assumption that the HHS regulation here at issue furthers a legitimate and compelling interest in the health of female employees." 

Justices also chose not to comment on whether the HHS mandate violates the First Amendment, saying the RFRA alone invalidates the provision as applied to closely held for-profit corporations.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas on the majority decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. (formerly Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.) and Conestoga Wood v. Burwell. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a four-page concurring opinion to swing the decision in favor of Hobby Lobby.

The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialites Corporation argued in court that the HHS mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act – which requires all employers to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to female employees without charging a co-pay – violates their owners' evangelical Christian faith.

“Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision. Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles,” said Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby. “The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins called the decision "one of the most significant victories for religious freedom in our generation." Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest agreed it was " a victory for common-sense, as pro-life Americans do not lose their First Amendment freedoms when they open a family business or when they value unborn life."

The court's four liberal justices filed two separate dissents to today's ruling. One, authored by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, runs 35 pages and calls the majority opinion "a decision of startling breadth." They strongly objected to the notion that for-profit corporations qualified for protection from laws that might violate its owners' religious views. Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan filed a separate one-paragraph dissent, joining Ginsburg siding with HHS but not commenting on the standing of for-profit corporations.

Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic privately owned business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandateThe company provides 16 of the 20 forms of contraception required by new federal regulations. But the owners opposed paying for or furnishing potential abortifacients like Ella and the morning-after pill to its female employees. 

The decision suggests that the Obama administration could have had U.S. taxpayers underwrite the cost of contraceptives for corporations that refuse to decline them on religious grounds.

It also states the administration could implement a system similar to the law's “accommodation” for religious non-profits, unveiled in February 2013. The provision allowed non-profit organizations to note their religious objection in writing, and their insurance companies would then be compelled to provide the contraceptives to female employees for “free.” Pro-life observers dismissed the notion as little more than an accounting gimmick, saying the insurance companies would pass on the costs to the employers by charging higher premiums. The Little Sisters of the Poor have sued, saying participating in the system violates their religious freedom; justices specifically said they did not decide the constitutionality of the system for "all religious claims."

But "HHS has provided no reason why the same system cannot be made available when the owners of for-profit corporations have similar religious objections," the justices wrote. "We therefore conclude that this system constitutes an alternative that achieves all of the government’s aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty."

Hobby Lobby CEO David Green said, “This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

Last June 27, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Hobby Lobby had “established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm.” However, Conestoga Wood lost its case before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals last July.

The Hahn family, which owns Conestoga, says its devout Mennonite faith and belief that life begins at conception forbids it from complying with the mandate. 

The Greens' son, Mardel, who operates 35 Christian bookstores, also joined the lawsuit.

The hobby chain, with more than 500 stores in 41 states, faced a penalty of $100 a day per employee or $1.3 million in daily fines for violating the HHS mandate. In all, Hobby Lobby faced $475 million a year in fines, Conestoga would have been slapped with $33 million, and Mardel's Christian book chain with $15 million in ObamaCare penalties.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the cases last November. 

Today is the last day of the Supreme Court's session. It will resume on the first Monday in October. 



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BREAKING: Kim Davis defeats ACLU attempt to force her to violate her conscience

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ROWAN COUNTY, Kentucky, February 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - A federal judge has turned down the ACLU's attempt to force Kim Davis to violate her conscience while issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Although Governor Matt Bevin granted a religious accommodation for the county clerk to issue altered marriage licenses to homosexuals, the ACLU brought a lawsuit seeking to force Davis to issue the old forms with her full name on them.

"There is absolutely no reason that this case went so far without reasonable people respecting and accommodating Kim Davis' First Amendment rights," said Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, who is defending Davis. "Today's ruling by Judge Bunning rejected the ACLU's request to hold Kim Davis in contempt of court."

Kim Davis is a born again Apostolic Christian who refuses to issue marriage licenses bearing her name to homosexuals, because doing so would imply her consent and participation in something the Bible deems sinful. "It's a Heaven or Hell decision," she said. Davis contacted state legislators and former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, seeking a religious accommodation that would alter the form but allow her office to recognize gay unions, to no avail.

Ultimately, she spent six days in jail last September after Judge Bunning held her in contempt of court for refusing to issue the unamended forms.

"Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office," Senator Ted Cruz said after her arrest.

When she was released last September 8, presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Cruz showed up to wish her well.

"Lock me up" in Kim Davis' place, Mike Huckabee said. "Let Kim go."

When Davis returned to work last September 14, she allowed other employees to grant new certificates that did not have her name on them.

Deputy Rowan County Clerk Brian Mason said that Davis “confiscated all the original forms, and provided a changed form which deletes all mentions of the County, fills in one of the blanks that would otherwise be the County with the Court’s styling, deletes her name, deletes all of the deputy clerk references, and in place of deputy clerk types in the name of Brian Mason, and has him initial rather than sign.”

Matt Bevin, the Republican who would be elected governor that November, promptly granted Davis an accommodation and signed the first new regulation on abortion in a dozen years shortly after taking office.

But the ACLU sued to force Davis to issue the old certificates, anyway. Judge Bunning wrote that would be unnecessary.

"There is every reason to believe that any altered licenses issued between September 14, 2015, and September 20, 2015, would be recognized as valid under Kentucky law, making re-issuance unnecessary," wrote Judge David Bunning, a Republican whose father Jim Bunning, was a baseball great and former U.S. senator. "Under these circumstances, the court finds that Plaintiffs’ request for relief is now moot."

Since returning to work, Davis has met with Pope Francis and attended President Obama's last State of the Union address.

"From the beginning we have said the ACLU is not interested in marriage licenses. They want Kim Davis' scalp," Staver said. "They want to force her to violate her conscience. I am glad the court rejected this bully tactic."



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Black pastors pray over Hillary Clinton at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.
Fr. Mark Hodges

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Black pastors pray over ‘president-to-be’ Clinton right before she condemns pro-life bill

Fr. Mark Hodges

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – After pastors invoked God's blessing upon her presidential run, Hillary Clinton condemned legislation to protect babies in the womb.

The African-American ministers "laid hands" on Clinton and prayed to "decree and declare the favor of the Lord" upon Clinton, who is in a neck-and-neck race with Bernie Sanders for the Democrat nomination for president.

"President-to-Be Clinton, we decree and declare from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet that the favor of the Lord will surround you like a shield, in Jesus's name," they prayed, at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

The Clinton campaign proceeded to vigorously oppose proposed legislation in Oklahoma designed to save pre-born babies.

Oklahoman Thomas Hunter filed for a petition to change the state constitution so that it prohibits any action "that causes the death of an unborn human being" – whether abortion or post-conception "contraception."

Clinton campaign senior adviser Maya Harris came out vehemently against putting Hunter's petition on the state's ballot, calling it "unconstitutional" and "bad for the health of Oklahoma women."

Speaking on behalf of the Clinton campaign, Harris said, "This initiative petition should be challenged and, if it makes it on the ballot, rejected by Oklahomans."

Reaction to the two contradictory acts – the religious blessing and the condemnation of pro-life legislation – was swift and strong among African-American ministers.

"It is shameful to see clergy abandon the principles of the faith and engage in such heretical political pandering," the Reverend Dr. Clenard H. Childress, Jr. told LifeSiteNews. "These clergy represent the problem the church has in the clarity of its message and the demonstration of its worth."

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"There was a time when the church was very powerful – in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed," Rev. Childress, founder of Black Genocide, told LifeSiteNews. "In those days, the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society."

"So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound," Rev. Childress concluded. "So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo."

"Abortion remains the number-one killer of black Americans, higher than all other causes of death combined," Pastor Arnold M. Culbreath, a founding member of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews. "Therefore, it is absolutely critical that blacks become informed, equipped, and provided with resources to end the abortion-related genocide occurring in our communities every day."

"With Hillary Clinton's extreme and consistent pro-abortion views and actions," Pastor Culbreath asserted, "it is a travesty that pastors would be more focused on laying hands on her, rather than challenging her views with credible research and making her aware of the devastating impact abortion is having on black babies, mothers, and families across America. Black lives depend on it!"

"We have the most anti-life president in office now, because Christians put him there," Pastor Walter and Darleen Moss told LifeSiteNews in a joint statement. "Will Christians continue to ignore what may be the most significant issue of the coming presidency – the issue of life?"

"If black lives matter, do black lives matter in the womb?" the Mosses asked. "The greatest curse on this nation results from the shedding of innocent blood from the womb. How can we advance if we keep killing our children?"

Then the Mosses spoke to African-American clergy who toe the Democrat party line. "If these good pastors read their Bibles, they would know that it clearly says, 'Jesus is the LIFE.' Therefore, is not pro-abortion anti-life and anti-Christ? Are we not made in the image of God? Does He not know us in the womb?"

"Pastors may be close to, if not at, apostasy to continue to endorse any candidate who endorses the murder of our children," the Mosses concluded. "That would include Hillary Clinton, a champion for eugenics and Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, the number-one killer of our babies in the USA and around the world through the United Nations."

Rev. Childress quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. against "Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's insidious alliance with Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry": "'Racial discrimination ... relegates persons to the status of things. ... It is a tragic expression of man's spiritual degeneracy and moral bankruptcy.' So it is not surprising to see Hillary Clinton's negative response to recognizing infants as persons and not things."

Hunter's proposed amendment to the Oklahoma constitution would also ban "the deliberate destruction of unborn human beings created in a laboratory."

Hunter, who filed the constitutional petition in Oklahoma, explained to the Tulsa World, "The question is whether or not the Supreme Court ruling that born people have the right to kill unborn people was, in fact, constitutional in the first place."



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Rebecca Kiessling

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Gov. Christie, killing rape-conceived babies (like me!) is NOT self-defense

Rebecca Kiessling

February 9, 2016 (Savethe1) -- Children conceived in rape – like me – took a beating at the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire Saturday evening.  Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Jeb Bush had some harsh words regarding the treatment of the innocent child conceived in rape, and I think their rhetoric demonstrates that they're not really committed to ending abortion, but merely doing the bare minimum to win votes from those who identify as pro-life.

For starters, Gov. Christie said, “I believe that if a woman has been raped, that is a pregnancy that she should be able to terminate.”  What does he mean by “terminate”?  It may come as a surprise to many of you, but I voluntarily terminated three of my pregnancies.  My daughters are doing quite well now, after having labor induced.  You see, you can terminate a pregnancy and still have a live baby.  Normally delivery of a baby is the termination of a pregnancy.  Inducing labor or performing a C-section is the premature termination of a pregnancy.  But that’s not what Christie is talking about, is it?  He’s talking about the termination where you have a dead baby – because he or she is killed.  So what he’s saying is that my birthmother – a woman who had been raped – should have been able to kill me.  Ouch!  That’s not pro-life.

Then he went on to say, “The fact is that we have always believed, as has Ronald Reagan, that we have self defense for women who have been raped and impregnated because of it or been victims of incest and been impregnated for it.”  Since he used the tactic of invoking President Reagan, let’s take a look at what Reagan actually said:

Let us unite as a nation and protect the unborn with legislation that would stop all Federal funding for abortion and with a human life amendment making, of course, an exception where the unborn child threatens the life of the mother. Our Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes the right of taking a life in self-defense. But with that one exception, let us look to those others in our land who cry out for children to adopt.  I pledge to you tonight I will work to remove barriers to adoption and extend full sharing in family life to millions of Americans so that children who need homes can be welcomed to families who want them and love them.  – Ronald Reagan, State of the Union address, January, 1988

If you’re going to invoke Reagan to bolster your position, you’d better be sure you got that right.  But in case mischaracterizing Reagan’s position wasn’t bad enough, Gov. Christie outdid himself with his next statement:  “I believe that they do not have to deliver that child if they believe that is an act of self defense by terminating that pregnancy.”  “An act of self-defense?!”  This is the kind of rhetoric you hear from abortion rights advocates – suggesting that the innocent preborn child is somehow continuing to rape the woman, and therefore, she needs to kill the baby to stop the rape.  Gov. Christie, since you recognize my right as a woman to engage in an act of self defense, let me clear up your confusion: I was NOT raping my birthmother!  I was not attacking her.  I was innocent.  I’m pleading my innocence!  So here’s my advice to you – punish rapists, not babies.  It’s not a difficult concept.  This is my act of self defense – quit picking on innocent children like me by suggesting our lives weren’t worth living or protecting, because I fight back and I will defend my life!

Since his remarks Saturday evening, I’ve been inundated with suggestions from people that I need to talk to him and to share my story with him – just like with Gov. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich four years ago when I changed their hearts during their presidential campaigns.  Well, I DID share my story with Chris Christie, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida in August, 2012.  But he’s a different character and hard-hearted.  Like in the Parable of the Sower, in Matthew Chapter 13, the seeds did not fall on fertile soil.  But then Jesus explained:

This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”

 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.”

As if the shots from Chris Christie weren’t enough to dehumanize and demoralize my people group, Gov. Jeb Bush had insults of his own:  “I am pro-life but I believe there should be exceptions — rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger.”  Any time a politician starts off with “I am pro-life but,” you know he’s not committed to ending abortion.  He may do the bare minimum to get pro-life voters to think he’s pro-life, but he’s not someone who is reliable to end legalized abortion, he’s not dependable to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v Wade, and he’s clearly willing to discriminate and to leave the door open for all abortions through gaping loopholes.

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Then Gov. Bush issued the most telling remark – “That belief and my consistency on this makes me, I think, poised to be in the right place — the sweet spot — for Republican nominee.”  OUCH!!!  Okay, please keep in mind that I’m biting my tongue as I respond to his “sweet spot” remarks.  I looked up the definition of “sweet spot,” just so everyone understands how callous his words were, and the first definition to come up is sexual in nature -- “a spot on the body that responds pleasurably to a caress or touch,” and then there’s the sports reference – “the area from which the cleanest shots are made.”  Whether Jeb Bush is climaxing at the thought of denying a child conceived in rape her right to life in order to gain him victory as the GOP nominee, or if it’s that he finds the rape victim’s child to be the perfect whipping boy for taking shots at, his remarks are offensive, dehumanizing and demoralizing.

Lastly, Bush said, “Others may have a different view and I respect it.”  This isn’t about respecting mere political views -- this is about respecting not just my “view,” but my life!  I deserve to be alive, I was worthy of the protection I received pre-Roe v Wade, and others just like me deserve the same opportunity to be born.

If you call yourself pro-life, if you say you believe that the pre-born are persons and therefore, have a right to life under the 14th Amendment due process clause, then you cannot be willing to violate the second part of the 14th Amendment – the equal protection clause, which says that “No state shall deny a person equal protection of the laws.”  To do so is not only hypocritical, it’s unconstitutional.  And that’s precisely what Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are proposing – to deny persons equal protection under the law.

Recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham has made hurtful remarks calling children like me “the child of the rapist.”  I am sure he has no idea how offensive that is to the majority of rape survivors who not only choose life, but choose to raise their children.  After everything she’s been through and had to overcome, he has the audacity to suggest that her child is the rapist’s child.  We don’t call President Obama “the polygamist’s child,” so stop trying to demonize us in such a manner.  Give us our dignity and call us who we are – a rape victim’s child, a child of God, a person with a right to life.

Right now, the only two GOP presidential candidates who support overturning Roe v Wade and who refuse to discriminate against the child conceived in rape are Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio.  I’ve met Sen. Rubio in person, and would love to meet Sen. Cruz some day.  But I’m also willing to meet with any other candidates, and I do hope that by putting a face, a voice, and a real-life story to the issue, their hearts and minds would be changed so that they’d no longer support the killing of innocent children.   There are over 300 hundred of us through Save The 1 who were conceived in rape, mothers from rape, birthmothers from rape and post-abortive after rape.  We are thankful for the gift of life, we deserve our dignity, and we want our voices to be heard.

Rebecca Kiessling is a wife, mother of 5, attorney and international pro-life speaker and blogger.  She shares her story of having been conceived in rape and nearly aborted at two back alley abortions, but legally protected.  She’s the founder and President of Save The 1, co-founder of Hope After Rape Conception, and co-founder of Embryo DefenseReprinted with permission from Save The 1.



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