Center for Inquiry Warns Hobby Lobby Decision Will Prove Deeply Damaging to American Health Care
Secular advocacy group the Center for Inquiry decried the Supreme Court’s ruling today that the health and welfare of female employees should be subordinated to their employers’ religious beliefs, and warned that the impact of the decision will prove deeply damaging to Americans’ access to health care, well beyond the scope of contraception coverage.
In a split decision, and over a vigorous dissent authored by Justice Ginsburg, the Court held that privately owned for-profit businesses are entitled to exemptions from the Contraceptive Mandate of the Affordable Care Act if their owners claim a religious basis for opposing contraception. As a result, employers with religious objections can deny employees access to insurance covering prescription contraception without co-pay. The Supreme Court based its decision on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that a law that burdens a person’s religious beliefs must be justified by a compelling government interest. Today the Court made clear it does not view Americans’ access to medically necessary health care as a compelling government interest, and announced loud and clear that the religious preferences of employers take preference over the health needs of workers.
God I hate the RFRA. I remember raging (yes I’m a rage-blogger and was a rage-blogger before there were blogs) when it was passed.
In making its decision, the Supreme Court also made a determination that will cause significant confusion in church-state litigation for years to come. The majority held that small, closely held, for-profit private corporations have standing to sue under RFRA – in other words, that such corporations have the religious beliefs of their owners, and the same right to free exercise as their owners.
“The potential effects of this decision are absolutely chilling, setting a precedent that is sure to reverberate far beyond the issue of contraceptive coverage,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry.
“This is not a decision that advances religious freedom – it is a decision that enshrines religious privilege over and above employee well-being,” added Lindsay. “This decision defies common sense, lacks compassion, and has the potential to harm us all.”
Is “closely held” a term of art?*
CFI previously filed an amicus brief in this case, and this month launched a major campaign to combat religion and junk science in health care policy (SafeandSecular.org). In the coming months and years, CFI will continue to work through lobbying, litigation, and grassroots action to mitigate the negative effects of this decision.
And mitigation is the best that can be hoped for, for the foreseeable future. It’s just disgusting.
*Update: Nick Fish tells me it means 50% of corporation held by 5 people or fewer.
Jim Lippard provides an IRS link.