This week, Hobby Lobby began oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the Department of Health and Human Services’ directive ordering employers to cover certain contraceptives in their health insurance plans.
Hobby Lobby’s CEO David Green believes some of the required contraceptives abort the fetus which contradicts his religious beliefs. Lawyers representing Green are asking the question “Are corporations people?” and if so “Do they have the same religious freedom rights?”
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed in 1993. It applies when a law “substantially burdens” an individual or religious group from free exercise of religion.
For a law to apply to a person or group, the government must first show “compelling interest in applying the law.” Second, the law must use the “least restrictive means” to achieve that interest.
During the upcoming weeks, the Supreme Court must answer three very important questions. Does a for-profit corporation have the same rights as a person? If so, does this “person” engage in an “exercise of religion” when he, for religious reasons, refuses to provide health insurance that covers contraceptives or abortifacients? Lastly, does the Department of Health and Human Services “substantially burden” the “exercise of religion” by those persons and organizations that have religious beliefs that forbid them from providing contraceptives or abortifacients?
The Justice Department argued in its brief filed with the Supreme Court, “There is no reason to think that Congress intended RFRA to grant for-profit corporations rights that previously have been reserved to individuals and religious nonprofit institutions.”
Lori Widham, one of Hobby Lobby’s lawyers, stated, “The religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby’s owners are inseparable from how they operate.”
Windam asked, “Is Hobby Lobby required to provide all forms of contraception, including [drugs that enable] the termination of human life, or is that left between the employee and their doctor?”
Currently, Hobby Lobby covers 16 of the 20 mandated forms of contraception.
Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project recently predicted, “A Supreme Court decision granting corporations ‘personhood’ protections under RFRA could create numerous opportunities for businesses to challenge a range of government regulations.”