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For-Profit Businesses Have Right to Religious Liberty Too, Lawmakers Tell Court in Hobby Lobby Case

By Penny Starr
February 22nd, 2013
Cybercast News Service (cnsnews.com)

"In the Hobby Lobby case, HHS's lawyers have argued that business owners don't have religious liberty at all when it comes to how they run their businesses," Keim said. "According to HHS, that's because the corporate form, which was designed centuries ago to limit liability, insulates them from the moral consequences of their actions."

WASHINGTON, DC (CNS NEWS) - Republican members of Congress have weighed in on the legal battle being waged over the Obamacare mandate requiring employers to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to employees.

Eleven senators and congressmen filed an amicus brief, also known as a friend-of-the-court brief, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit on Tuesday in support of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a Christian-owned and operated corporation that opposes the mandate based on its owners' religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby filed suit against Health and Human Services and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Rep. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was one of the lead sponsors of the Religious Freedom Reformation Act of 1993, which he said was designed to protect the religious liberty of all Americans, even those who own corporations or other for-profit businesses.

"As one of the lead sponsors of RFRA, it's deeply troubling to see this White House trample on the religious freedom the law seeks to protect," Hatch said in a written statement.

The brief states: "Amici are federal legislators who were part of the broad, bipartisan coalition that enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 ("RFRA"). Amici designed and passed RFRA to establish a blanket default rule that would insulate religious liberty from the shifting fortunes of interest-group politics.

"Defendants have ordered that certain employers' insurance plans must cover all FDA-approved contraceptives without cost-sharing (the "HHS mandate"), but have refused to exempt many employers with sincere religious objections. Amici have an interest in vindicating RFRA's blanket protections against the selective and stingy approach adopted by Defendants."

In addition to Hatch, the brief was signed by Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

At an event at the Family Research Council on Wednesday to discuss the threat Obamacare poses to Americans' religious freedoms, Adele Keim, legal counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, said that HHS is trying to make the distinction between non-profit and for-profit, with the latter being said to be secular and exempt from religious consideration.

"In the Hobby Lobby case, HHS's lawyers have argued that business owners don't have religious liberty at all when it comes to how they run their businesses," Keim said. "According to HHS, that's because the corporate form, which was designed centuries ago to limit liability, insulates them from the moral consequences of their actions."

Keim said that HHS claims the for-profit nature of a corporation does not make the religious belief of its owner relevant.

"But of course, there's nothing in the First Amendment that says you lose your religious liberty when you make a living," Keim said.

Kyle Duncan, general counsel with Becket, said the lawmakers' brief shows that the Obamacare mandate goes against federal civil rights law.

"While any brief by sitting members of Congress is significant, this one comes from members who originally supported the federal civil rights law-the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993-which is at the heart of the mandate challenges," Duncan said.

"The brief leaves no doubt that Congress intended to protect the religious freedom of those like Hobby Lobby and its founder, David Green, against federal attempts to force them to insure abortion-inducing drugs," Duncan added.

According to Becket, there are 47 legal court cases opposing the HHS mandate, with more than 130 plaintiffs being represented.

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