NewsMon Jun 30, 2014 - 10:01 am EST
Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby on HHS mandate in 5-4 decision
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 mandate. The 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.
Texas AG to Target: Show me how you’ll protect women and kids from criminals
AUSTIN, Texas, May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The latest backlash Target received as a result of its transgender bathroom policy was a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the company to provide its safety policies to protect women and children from “those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes.”
“Target, of course, is free to choose such a policy for its Texas stores,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell. He noted the possibility of the Texas Legislature addressing the issue in the future, but said, “regardless of whether Texas legislates on this topic, it is possible that allowing men in women’s restrooms could lead to criminal and otherwise unwanted activity.”
“As chief lawyer and law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, I ask that you provide the full text of Target’s safety policies regarding the protection of women and children from those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes,” Paxton continued.
More than 1.1 million people have pledged to boycott Target over its new policy allowing men to access women’s bathrooms. Opponents of the policy worry that it puts women and children at risk by emboldening predators, who may now freely enter women’s restrooms.
Target’s new policy is “inclusive,” the company claims, and they say “everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.”
“Texans statewide can no longer be silent on the issue of protecting the safety of women and children,” Texas Values President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz said in a statement Wednesday urging Texans to boycott Target. This is the first time in its history the pro-family group has called for a boycott.
“We need all Texans to understand that Target is using this radical change in their store policy to try convince people that our laws should be changed in this dangerous direction as well,” said Saena. “Our goal with this boycott is for Target to change its dangerous new policy, to raise awareness of the real threats to safety that these policies bring and to help businesses and lawmakers understand the significant opposition to such measures that is growing daily… Texans all across our state must join this Boycott Target effort before someone gets hurt.”
On Tuesday a male allegedly filmed an underage girl at a Frisco, Texas, Target fitting room. Police are searching for the man.
There have been numerous incidents of male predators across North America accessing women’s facilities and citing transgender policies as allowing them to do so.
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Christians, America has reached a crisis point. Are you ready to take up this challenge?
May 5, 2016 (Albert Mohler) -- For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have enjoyed the enormous privilege and responsibility of forming our own government—a privilege rarely experienced throughout most of human history. For most of history, humanity has struggled with the question of how to respond to a government that was essentially forced upon them. But Americans have often struggled with a very different reality; how do we rightly respond to the government that we choose?
To put all of this in historical perspective, the Framers of the American experiment understood that a representative democracy built on the principle of limited government would require certain virtues of its citizens. These would include a restraint of passions and an upholding of traditional moral virtues, without which democracy would not be possible. As the idea of limited government implies, the citizenry would be required to carry out the social responsibilities of the community without the intrusion of government and, thus, citizens would be expected to have the moral integrity necessary for such an arrangement. The Framers of the American Republic also agreed that it would be impossible to have a representative democracy and a limited government if the people did not elect leaders who embodied the virtues of the citizenry while also respecting and protecting society’s pre-political institutions: marriage and family, the church, and the local community.
Thus, the idea of a limited government requires that society uphold and pursue the health of its most basic institutions. When a civil society is weak, government becomes strong. When the family breaks down, government grows stronger. When the essential institutions of society are no longer respected, government demands that respect for itself. That is a recipe for tyranny.
Much of this was essentially affirmed until the early decades of the 20th century when progressivists began promoting an agenda that fundamentally redefined the role of the federal government in public life. By the middle of the 20th century, the Democratic Party had essentially embraced this progressivist agenda, becoming committed to an increasingly powerful government—a government whose powers exceeded those enumerated in the Constitution. At the same time, the Democratic Party also began advocating for a basic redefinition of the morality that shaped the common culture. By and large, however, the Republican Party continued to maintain a commitment to the vision of America’s founders, advocating for a traditional understanding of morality while also upholding the principle of limited government.
By the 1980s, the two parties represented two very different worldviews and two very different visions of American government. For decades, each party has acted rather predictably and in ways that accord with their fundamental principles. All of that, however, has now changed.
The 2016 presidential campaign has developed in an entirely unpredictable manner and, in many respects, represents a crisis in American democracy. This crisis is not limited to either party. Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, has won several stunning victories in the primary season over presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While it is still extremely likely that Clinton will become the Democratic nominee, Sanders support among voters represents a populist flirtation with Democratic Socialism. This pattern is something few Democrats could have imagined just one year ago. What this foray into Democratic Socialism represents, then, is a radical adjustment of the Democratic Party’s basic economic principles. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, the process will likely drag her even further to the left, eventually redefining the Democratic Party before our very eyes.
But if it is remarkable to see what is happening in the Democratic Party, it is absolutely shocking to see what is happening among Republicans. Traditionally, the Republican Party has established its reputation by standing for the principles advocated by the American Founders—limited government upheld by the health of society’s primary institutions such as marriage, family, and community. Yet Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against. Clearly, both political parties are now redefining themselves. What is not clear is where each party will ultimately end up. What is also not clear is whether the American experiment can survive such radical political change.
As already noted, the American experiment in limited government requires that the citizenry and those who hold public office honor certain moral virtues and respect the institutions that are crucial for a society to rightly function. Yet, we now find ourselves in a situation where the three leading candidates for president show little to no respect for such institutions in their articulations of public policy.
This fundamental redefinition of the American political landscape requires Christians to think carefully about their political responsibility. Make no mistake; we cannot avoid that responsibility. Even refusing to vote is itself a vote because it privileges those who do vote and increases the value of each ballot. In truth, we bear a political responsibility that cannot be dismissed or delegated to others. Every Christian must be ready to responsibly steward his or her vote at the polls.
To put the matter bluntly, we are now confronted with the reality that, in November, Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump the Republican nominee. This poses a significant problem for many Christians who believe they cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. As a result, Christians are going to need a lot of careful political reflection in order to steward their vote and their political responsibility in this election cycle.
Headlines from around the world tell us that other representative democracies are at a similar moment of redefinition. Political turmoil now marks the United Kingdom and also nations like France and other key American allies. Perhaps democracy itself is now facing a crucial hour of decision and a crucial season of testing. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy is being tested around the world; it is certainly being tested here at home. Yet if this is a moment of testing for democracy, it is also a crucial moment for Christian witness. This election cycle is going to be a particular test for American Christians—and we are about to find out if Christians are up to this challenge.
Reprinted with permission from Albert Mohler.
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‘Sick and twisted’: Scientists keep embryos alive outside womb up to 13 days for experimentation
May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two teams of scientists have announced that they have been able to keep human embryos alive outside the womb for 13 days for the purpose of conducting scientific experiments. Some call the announcement the onset of a “Brave New World,” while others are petitioning lawmakers to lift sanctions that would keep scientists from experimenting on newly conceived babies even longer.
Researchers from Cambridge University, King's College, and Rockefeller University said in two separate reports that they stopped at 13 days only to avoid violating an internationally accepted law. At least 12 nations restrict the amount of time a newly conceived child may be kept alive in a laboratory to 14 days, the point at which scientists believe “individuality” begins.
The newest development allows scientists to observe newly conceived human beings after the point at which implantation in the womb would have occurred.
Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, one of the studies' lead researchers, said her team's breakthrough could advance embryonic stem cell research and “can improve IVF success.”
Some scientists have called on the international community to extend the amount of time such experimentation can take place.
“If restrictions such as the 14-day rule are viewed as moral truths, such cynicism would be warranted,” three experts – Insoo Hyun, Amy Wilkerson, and Josephine Johnston – wrote in a commentary published yesterday in Nature magazine. “But when they are understood to be tools designed to strike a balance between enabling research and maintaining public trust, it becomes clear that, as circumstances and attitudes evolve, limits can be legitimately recalibrated.”
Pro-life experts said the experimentation destroys human life and could lead to grave ethical dilemmas by extending the research.
“No human being should be used for lethal experimentation, no matter their age or stage of development,” said Dr. David Prentice, a professor of molecular genetics and an Advisory Board Member for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. “The 14-day rule is itself arbitrary, and does not assuage those who believe life begins at the moment of sperm-egg fusion. Moreover, allowing experiments on human embryos beyond 14 days post-fertilization risks the lives of untold more human beings, because it further encourages creation and destruction for research purposes.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, called the experimentation “sick and twisted.”
“Science has undeniably proven that a new human life, with unrepeatable DNA, begins at conception,” she said. “There is no reason for experimentation on that human life and science itself should not be heralding thae fact that a tiny human being can survive now for two weeks outside of the womb, all for the sole purpose of experimentation.”
Dr. Prentice noted that embryonic stem cell research “has yielded no benefit thus far,” leading even its most vocal advocates, such as Michael J. Fox, to admit it has not lived up to its promise.
“If this research does not stop at 14 days, where does it stop?” asked Prentice. “This is a risky step which could encourage further eugenic attitudes and actions.”
Dr. Prentice encouraged Congress “to have a full and open debate on the issue of human embryo research before the research community moves further without oversight.”