Contraception Mandate Trampling Religious Freedom?

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court will take up the most prominent case yet pitting some Americans' religious rights against Obamacare's edicts Tuesday.

Some say Obamacare is forcing business owners who believe abortion is a sin to pay for contraception that will terminate life in the womb.

Others warn if the justices side with those business owners, it could lead to all sorts of business owners using religion to try to dodge all sorts of laws.

Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, shared his insights on the Hobby Lobby case on CBN News Today, March 25.

Hobby Lobby's owners have lived out their religious beliefs through the store chain for decades, like keeping all Hobby Lobbys closed on Sundays.

They company is in court because they say Obamacare will force them to cough up coverage for drugs and devices that basically abort life at its earliest stage in the womb.

Those on the other side of the case say if the Supreme Court rules for Hobby Lobby, it's basically saying that businesses, not just people, have religious rights. Opponents believe that's nonsense.  

But the Green family who started Hobby Lobby say, as the owners, if they have to pay for contraceptives that kill potential life, that's a direct violation of their religious conscience.

Attorney Lori Windham, with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, has been fighting for the Greens against the Obamacare mandate that Hobby Lobby must cover 20 forms of contraception. The company only wants to be freed from having to cover four of those.

"In the law Congress said you had to cover women's preventive services, and a federal agency decided that women's preventive services meant all forms of contraception, including four drugs and devices that could terminate a human life," Windham told CBN News. "And that's something that the Greens cannot pay for in good conscience. If you do not comply with this, then you are looking at penalties that very quickly run into the millions of dollars."

One of the nation's top secularists told CBN News Hobby Lobby's desire to be free of giving its workers what Obamacare guarantees them is just wrong.

"Think about an employer who has 10,000 employees, and all those employees have different personal beliefs. But should that one employer's religious belief trump each one of the individual 10,000 employees' religious beliefs?" Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, said.

Rogers said to imagine the chaos if every employer can claim his religion exempts him from Obamacare's mandates.

"What if that employer happens to be a Jehovah's Witness and they're opposed to blood transfusions?" Rogers asked. "My daughter is alive today because she got a blood transfusion. What if the employer is Christian Scientist and they believe you shouldn't have access to any type of modern health care? That you should only be praying to their God?"

On the other side of the issue, the Becket Fund's Windham pointed out Hobby Lobby only wants to be free of having to cover the four drugs and devices that can terminate an unborn life. And even then, all its employees could still go buy them themselves.

"They have a right to access all different forms of contraception, even those that could take a human life, and this case isn't going to change that," Windham insisted. "What's at stake here is whether the government can force the Green family to be the ones who provide those things."

She said the charge that the Green family is trying to control what contraceptives its employees use is ridiculous.

"They cover most contraceptives, including the contraceptives that 93 percent of American women use," Windham pointed out. "It's only four specific drugs and devices they won't cover, and so 16 out of the 20 FDA contraceptives they have no problem with."

But Rogers argued Hobby Lobby's owners won't actually be taking money out of their pockets to buy those four drugs or devices at the center of this case.
 
"Legally, technically, they're not paying for it," Rogers suggested. "Because when you work, you have a salary, you have your fringe benefits, which usually includes health insurance and maybe life insurance. But that's part of your compensation. It is owned by you as an employee. If you weren't there working, earning it, it wouldn't exist."

She said it's flawed thinking to mix up the Greens' religious rights with Hobby Lobby itself.

"A company is not a person and doesn't have religious liberty," Rogers opined.

Windham couldn't disagree more and believes the Greens face great harm.

"This is a basic religious freedom case," she told CBN News. "Does a family still have their religious freedom when they open a family business?  Or can the government come in, take that freedom away, and force them to do things that violate their faith?"
 

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.