The NCBC Response to SCOTUS Decision in Support of Religious Freedom

June 30, 2014

The National Catholic Bioethics Center hails the decision today of the United States Supreme Court in support of the religious freedom of the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation and Hobby Lobby Stores Incorporated. These family-owned businesses took the courageous stand of challenging the assault on their religious freedom, under the guise of preventative health care, by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate.  The mandate requires virtually all employers to provide contraceptive, abortifacient, and surgical sterilization insurance coverage, at no cost to the employees, regardless of the deeply held religious objections of employers.  Both Conestoga Wood and Hobby Lobby argued that their deeply held religious beliefs concerning the sanctity of human life were violated by HHS forcing them to pay for abortifacient drugs and devices for their employees.

The contraceptive mandate represents a significant violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The  federal  government had  argued  that  neither  for-profit  corporations,  nor  even  the  individuals  running  them,  have  any rights  guaranteed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Specifically, in  its  legal  arguments,  the  federal  government  refused  to  acknowledge  that corporations  can  have  a  conscience.  This bias against persons of faith should give every citizen in this country, founded in the name of freedom, great pause.

However, today the Supreme Court affirmed that closely held companies, such as these family-owned businesses, are not to be treated as second class citizens by having their right to religious freedom denied by being subjected to the untenable choice of either abandoning their deeply held religious beliefs or incurring the substantial burden of crippling fines.

In celebrating this reaffirmation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act , and all that it has been promulgated to protect, The National Catholic Bioethics Center  also wishes to express its gratitude to the families of the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation and Hobby Lobby Stores Incorporated for their  courage in defending the sacred right of religious freedom at great fiscal peril.  The NCBC was a party to the amicus brief in support of the rights of these two companies, and finds hope for the continued protection of religious freedom in this decision.   Dr. John Haas, President of The National Catholic Bioethics Center, stated today, “It is indeed a good day for the United States of America and for these families who were willing to assume great personal risk to speak on behalf of justice and religious liberty."