Religious Freedom: Will the Supremes Let Us Keep It?

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Photo Source: Deseret News

Today’s the day in which the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Sibelius vs Hobby Lobby.

The question at hand is not whether the HHS Mandate is Constitutional. The question which is being brought before the Court is whether or not the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 protects Hobby Lobby against the fines and penalties of the HHS Mandate.

The Obama Administration has argued in previous court appearances that the First Amendment only applies to formal worship activities and other direct actions of federally recognized churches, within the confines of their church proper. This narrow interpretation of the First Amendment would end freedom of religion in this country. In fact, it is very similar to the kind and type of religious freedom that totalitarian states operating under communism grant.

So much is at stake with this case.

Please pray that the Supreme Court will preserve the religious liberties and religious exemptions that Americans have long enjoyed.

From SCOTUS Review:

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Linked with:

Docket No.Op. BelowArgumentOpinionVoteAuthorTerm
13-35410th Cir.Mar 25, 2014TBDTBDTBDOT 2013

Issue: Whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq., which provides that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.

Same Judge Who Turned Hobby Lobby Down, Now Grants Them a Stay on HHS Mandate

 

Hobby lobby zps8425ff5aI’ve read the news reports on several outlets, and I’m not exactly sure what the judge did, except that it’s clear that he stopped the government from dropping the guillotine on Hobby Lobby next month.

The draconian HHS Mandate, which is scheduled to go into effect in August, would probably, in the judge’s own words, “cut the legs from under” any “individual or corporation” who is so bold as to say “no” to it. Judge Joe Heaton ruled that Hobby Lobby is exempt from compliance with the HHS Mandate, at least until higher courts rule in the matter. He also put the case on hold until October 1 to give the Obama administration time to respond. 

What does this mean?

Well, it means that the government can’t start putting Hobby Lobby out of business because it won’t pay for abortifacients for its employees, at least not next month. 

It also gives the Obama administration a bloody nose. The administration originally contended that First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion only applied to churches. Then, when it began losing in court, the administration widened that out to include direct affiliates of churches. The administration has not budged in its position that the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion does not apply to you, me or any other individual. 

I think this latest ruling puts other judges on the hot seat. Are they going to allow corporations and individuals to go down the tubes next month, or are they going to step up and grant similar stays for everyone?

One interesting fact: Judge Joe Heaton is the same judge who denied a somewhat similar request by Hobby Lobby in November 2012. His reasoning then read like Obama administration boilerplate. 

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What has happened to change his mind? 

It may be that the reasoning of other justices who did not agree with him made him re-think the issue. It may also be that he finally wised up to the fact that the HHS Mandate is a challenge to the Constitution itself. It may also be that he came to understand what I saw when I first read about the nascent HHS Mandate months before it was promulgated: This thing has the makings of a Constitutional crisis of a magnitude not seen in this country since the Civil War. 

There has been a huge overstepping of individual liberties in the culture wars lately. Whether the issue is abortion or gay marriage, those who promote these positions are not satisfied with laws that allow them to do what they want. They are pushing hard for laws that force other people to participate in doing it with them. 

The HHS Mandate, by directly targeting the Church itself, along with its many ministries, stepped up the fight and made it something that was impossible to ignore. The days of going along to get along ended for believers in religious liberty and freedom of conscience when President Obama signed that thing. 

It’s possible Judge Heaton got his wits together and realized the magnitude of what he was dealing with. It’s also possible that Hobby Lobby’s lawyers wrote a better brief this time around. 

I don’t know. 

I do know that this ruling today is a good and hopeful one for all of us who hold our Constitutional liberties dear. 

Representative Diane Black Introduces the Health Care Conscience Protection Act

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Representative Diane Black (R-TN)

Representative Diane Black (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and John Fleming, MD (R-LA) announced that they will introduce the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA.)

It is bill number HR 940.

According to Rep Black’s website, HR 940, “offers reprieve from ongoing violations of our First Amendment, including full exemption from the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and conscience protection for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply-held, reasoned beliefs. HCCRA has 50 original co-sponsors.”

Representative Black allowed individuals who have been harmed by the government’s attacks on freedom of religion to speak at the press conference announcing this bill. They were:

Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN – New York State nurse who filed suit after her freedom to serve patients according to her conscience was violated. For more information, click here.

·         Susan Elliott, PhD, Director and Professor at Biola University Nursing Department. For more information, click here.

·         Christine Ketterhagen, Co-Owner/Board Member of Hercules Industries, Inc.; Andy Newland, President of Hercules Industries; Bill Newland, Chairman of the Board of Hercules Industries. For more information, click here

·         Sister Jane Marie Klein, OSF, Chairperson of the Board of Franciscan Alliance, Inc. (in Mishawaka, IN). Franciscan Alliance is a co-plaintiff with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Representative Black’s website included the following provisions in the Health Care Conscience Act:

HHS Mandate:

Under the health care coverage mandate issued on August 3, 2011, widely known as the HHS mandate, organizations and their managers are now facing potentially ruinous financial penalties for exercising their First Amendment rights, as protected by law. Hobby Lobby, a family business that was denied injunctive relief from the mandate and faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day, unless its owners agree to fund potentially abortion-inducing drugs. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close its doors, some 25,000 jobs nationwide may disappear. The Obama Administration’s HHS mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance. Ultimately, the so-called “accommodation” does not protect anyone’s religious rights, because all companies and organizations will still be forced to provide insurance coverage that includes services which conflict with their religious convictions. The HCCRA would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration’s HHS mandate.

Abortion Non-Discrimination:

The HCCRA also protects institutions and individuals from forced or coerced participation in abortion.  In recent years there have been several examples of nurses being told they must participate in abortions. There have also been efforts to require Catholic Hospitals to do abortions, and a Catholic social service provider was denied a grant to assist victims of human trafficking on the basis of their pro-life convictions.  The HCCRA codifies and clarifies the appropriations provision known as the Hyde‐Weldon conscience clause. This is accomplished by adding the protections for health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion to the section of the Public Health Service Act known as the Coats Amendment. It also adds the option of judicial recourse for victims whose rights have been violated under the HCCRA, Coats, or the conscience clauses known as the Church amendments.

You can call your Congresspeople at 202-224-3121. Or you can find their email addresses here

Hobby Lobby Delays Fines by Shifting Insurance Dates

A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News).- Arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby has found a way to adjust its employee healthcare plan to delay potentially crippling fines for refusing to comply with the federal contraception mandate.

The company will now “shift the plan year for its employee health insurance, thus postponing the effective date of the mandate for several months,” announced attorney Peter M. Dobelbower in a Jan. 10 statement.

“Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its healthcare plan,” Dobelbower said, adding that the retailer “will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties.”

By shifting its insurance plan year, the company will gain time in its battle against the federal contraception mandate, which would have taken effect for it on Jan. 1, 2013.

The controversial mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, requires that employers provide insurance plans that offer contraceptives – including some drugs that can cause early abortions – and sterilization. (Read more here.)

Hobby Lobby Braces for Millions in Fines

Hobby Lobby braces for millions in mandate fines
By Michelle Bauman Washington D.C., Jan 2, 2013(CNA/EWTN News).-
Arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby says it is willing to pay fines of $1.3 million per day to follow its owners’ religious beliefs, which conflict with the federal mandate that requires coverage of abortion-inducing drugs.

“The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in the case.

“To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” he explained.

Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO, David Green, has said that his family – which has owned the company since its 1972 founding – will continue seeking to serve God through their business decisions.

In addition to making significant charitable donations, the company closes all of its stores on Sundays so that its employees can have time to worship and rest with their families.

However, the Greens’ ability to run their company in accordance with their religious beliefs is being threatened by the contraception mandate, which was finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services in Jan. 2012. (Read more here.)


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