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In the high profile case Sebeliusv. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. Theruling stated that for-profit corporations could claim religious exemption fromthe Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This Ruling is the first time the Supreme Courthas interpreted the definition of an individual defined under the ReligiousFreedom Restoration Act (RFRA). They ruled that a corporation that is 50% ownedby one person is considered an individual. The ruling of the Court was based onthe RFRA and while the Court did not address the protection provided to anindividual under the Free Exercise Clause as outlined in the First Amendment,the Free Exercise Clause supports the overall ruling. The Free Exercise Clausestates that a law is prohibited from undue burden on the right to exercisefreedom of religion.

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By ruling that Hobby Lobby has the same rights asguarantee by the constitution, they are interpreting the meaning behind theRFRA as the Court is empowered to do. By defining Hobby Lobby as an individual,they have allowed them the exemption from the ACA in regards to the birthcontrol mandate.                TheACA mandates that all companies’ insurance plans will provide full coverage includingcontroversial emergency contraceptives such as PlanB (levonorgestrel), ella (ulipristal acetate), and copperIUDs.

Thesebirth controls can keep a fertilized egg from implanting, causing the egg toabort. These birth controls are 89% to 95% effective, suggested as emergencyonly contraceptives. The owners of Hobby Lobby felt that the emergencycontraceptives went against their religious beliefs and in good consciencecould not stand behind providing it. They are a family owned corporation andhave established their company on Christian values and beliefs. These valuesinclude abstaining from contraceptives that cause abortions. This being said, theyhave always provided a full health care coverage plan to their employees priorto the ACA. The Supreme Courtbased their ruling on (RFRA).

This act states:Government shallnot substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burdenresults from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsectionof this section. Exception are Government may substantially burden a person’sexercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden tothe person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is theleast restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest orJudicial relief (Cornell University Law School).The Supreme Court got this ruling right and the interpretation of the RFRA.They upheld that the RFRA’s broad protection of freedom of religion encompassescompanies, which they define as persons. The RFRA waspassed in 1993 to protect all religious groups, in particular the NativeAmerican’s. The Government’s laws and expansion on sacred land have burdenedtheir use of peyote and ritual ceremonies. The land that Native Americans worship on is extremely important, as theirceremonies are very specific to sacred locations.

This is guaranteed to us inthe First Amendment under the free exercise clause. It specifically states thatlaws cannot be passed that will burden free exercise of religion. Unfortunately,in the 80’s Courts where not protecting this clause and allowed legislationthat began to burden Native American’s religious rights.

In 1990 Employment Division v. Smith the Courtrejected the test to assess Free Exercise claims. The federal ban on peyote wasupheld and the court stated that general laws might cause burden but notactually violate the First Amendment. This outraged the public and many groupscame together to support the RFRA putting pressure on the courts to overturn federallaws if they burden religion. The RFRA was used to challenge the courtsdecisions and in the case of EmploymentDivision v. Smith the Court ruled that the use of peyote was legal and Smithshould not have been fired.

Legislation in Arizona, Missouri, Georgia, and Kansas havesimilar bills that protect religious liberties for business owners to run theirbusiness based on their religious beliefs. As a country, we should be able toexpress our faith and allow that faith to flow through to our business endeavors.For religious people who follow their beliefs it is a way of life. Religiousfreedom is very important as it is one of the main reasons our fore fatherscame to this country to established their freedom from the King and his church.                Exemptionshave been made for many companies in regards to the ACA. According to theSupreme Court the US Department of Health (HHS) has exempted religiousemployers such as churches from the contraceptive mandate. They have alsoexempted religious non-profit organizations that have objected to providingcontraceptive services.

However, the HHS denied this exemption for Hobby Lobbydue to their interpretation of Congress’s mandate. The HHS interpreted thatCongress did not mean for the RFRA to be extended to for-profit corporations. TheHHS surmised that large corporation’s religious beliefs couldn’t beascertained. Even though it is suggested in Gallagherv.

Crown Kosher Super Market of Mass., Inc that a for-profit corporationhas the right to exercise religion. Hobby Lobby was forced to take theircomplaint to Court and eventually the Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby and theirfamily members have sincere Christen belief that believes life begins atconception. They believe that facilitating access to these drugs or devices is inviolation their faith.

  The Supreme Courtupheld the 10th Circuit decision, which ruled that Hobby Lobby’sfamily corporation are persons under the RFRA. A great deal of money and timewould have been saved if the HHS had allowed the requested exemption for HobbyLobby in regards to this specific birth control. This case has caused a great deal of political uproar aseach side heats up over the ruling. Some argue that a corporation is a legalentity and not a person therefore not protected under the RFRA or Free ExerciseClause. The ruling was clear and defined “All five conservative justicesappointed by Republican presidents ruled in favor of closely held for-profitbusinesses those with at least 50% of stock held by five or fewer people, suchas family-owned businesses in which the owners have clear religious beliefs” (Mears,Bill, Josh Levs, and Lisa Desjardins).

Concerns have been expressed that thisruling will cause other corporations to try and claim exemptions from otherfederal laws based on religious beliefs. This argument is a post hoc fallacy asit is saying if a corporation can be identified as a person, then everycorporation in the country will be using this case to get out of paying forhealthcare. Corporations may claim exemption, however, that is also assumingthat such companies will have the set ratio of ownership as well as a religiousprecedent to gain an exemption.

This argument over simplifies the ruling andmakes a hasty conclusion that the courts will not consider all the facts of suchclaims. The Court needs to protect our freedom of religion in family own business,as it is the foundation of our great country. If we forget that as a society wemay not have a country where faith can be expressed at all.Even though, this is the first time the Supreme Courthas interpreted this federal statue under the RFRA, it is not the first timethat the Court has upheld freedom of religion in the work place. In the Sherbert v. Verner (1962) and Wisconsin v Yoder (1972) the courtsruled based on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. This does notallow government to place burdens on exercise of religion. The Sherbert case involved an employee whowas fired because working on Saturday was against her Seventh-day Adventistsbeliefs.

When Sherbert applied forunemployment she was denied. This decision was supported by a state trial, butover turned by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The employer had placed aburden on her ability to exercise her faith. This case created the Sherbert Test, which determines if thefree exercise clause of the First Amendment causes undue burdened on religiousexercise.

The Courts also ruled in favor of freedom of religion in the Wisconsin v Yoder case. The Yoder case was about an Amish familythat felt state education forced on their child past the 8th gradewas infringing on their freedom of religion. The Supreme Court ruled that theparent’s rights under free exercise clause where more important than thestates’ rights and interest regarding educating children.Some argue that the RFRA wasn’t meant to protect smallbusiness and the interpretation from the Supreme Court in this ruling is wrong.Lawmakers are lobbing congress to create a new bill that would prohibitfor-profit companies to opt out or gaining exemptions from the ACA. This law doesnot amend the RFRA but it redefines the already interpreted definition of acorporation vs. an individual.

Currently the bill has 40 co-sponsors and ifpassed will undermine the current ruling and instead of moving forward willcause a step back. This would create another constitutional crisis in which theSupreme Court would have to rule on it and use their power of interpretation ofthe law. To mandate a company to provide a product that isagainst their religious beliefs places undue burden on their ability topractice free exercise of religion. That mandate in the ACA is unconstitutionalbased on ruling parameters set forth and the interpretation of a for-profitfamily corporation to be an individual. Concerned lawmakers have argued this is an attack onWomen’s health care while ignoring the root of the argument.  The main issue of this argument is religiousrights and the definition of an individual established in the RFRA. The realwomen’s health issue should be on long-term health risk of this contraception’s.

Not enough research has been done to determine if the different emergencycontraception are even safe with long-term use. One of the Supreme Court justice’s, Ginsberg wrote:”Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribingto the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations.

Workers whosustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from onereligious community.” (Lopez).  Dissentersagree with religious freedom within one’s own religion, but not to make othersfollow your specific creed in the free market. They feel their own freedoms arebeing denied or burdened by an employer.

The argument is to require theemployers to pay for and provide all mandated health care contraception, even ifit goes against the co- founder’s beliefs. This argument is irrational appealand shifts the burden of proof to the family owners of Hoppy Lobby to provethat their rights are equal to that of the people they employee. Which posesthe problem of employee rights over the family founders of Hobby Lobby’s rightsand is one more important than the other? The conclusion can be determinedbased on precedent rulings from the Sherbert test that freedom to exercisereligion must be unburdened. The Supreme Court pointed out that the RFRA was originallyenacted with the phrase “exercise of religion under the first amendment” (CornellUniversity Law School) and that this was not tied to just the pre Smithinterpretation of the amendment but that the Supreme Court recognizes thatthese rights extend past the Smith decision. “The exercise of religion shall be construed to favor of a broadprotection of religious exercise to the maxim permitted by this chapter and theconstitution” (Cornell University Law School). This is profound in that it clearly statesthat the First Amendment is purposely broad in its exercise of religion. Thisis why the Court couldn’t allow HHS to only exempt non-profit companies andreligious organizations, as it would infringe on the constitutional rightsunder these broad rights.

Simply put, the HHS does not have the constitutionalright to grant exemption to one party over another for religious rights. Theconstitution is living document and the Supreme Court must protect the rightsit affords. These rights are available to everyone and must not be burdened bythe government.  

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