The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidation of cases in which religious organizations are challenging the sufficiency of the Obama administration’s religious accommodation from the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. (Stay tuned for excerpts and highlights from the argument as the transcript becomes available.)
Following the hearing, which featured several mentions of the Baptist Joint Committee’s brief opposing the plaintiffs’ arguments, the BJC’s Brent Walker spoke with reporters
His remarks are below (you can also see video of his statement in this C-SPAN video.):
I’m Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. We filed a brief in the Zubik case on behalf of the government.
The Baptist Joint Committee has been defending and extending religious liberty for all people since 1936, standing up for free exercise rights and the separation of church and state.
Our brief in the Zubik case defends the sufficiency of the government’s religious accommodation, reminding the Court that religious liberty can be endangered by exaggerated claims.
Petitioners in this case are asking for “a bridge too far.”
The government has provided a careful system of exemptions that responds to religious objections about contraception without depriving employees of desired health care benefits.
Despite what the religious groups in this case argue, legislative and administrative exemptions designed to protect religious liberty without harming other important interests should be encouraged, not threatened, by “all or nothing” demands.
The religious organizations have been relieved of providing, paying for – or even appearing to approve of –services they find objectionable, but they aren’t taking “yes” for an answer. Their claims cannot thwart the government’s regulation of secular insurance companies to make sure those services are delivered.
As the leader of the diverse coalition that fought for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, the Baptist Joint Committee continues to advocate for its use, allowing its carefully crafted language to balance competing claims that ensure religious liberty for all people.
Our brief in the Zubik case was written by Douglas Laycock, a religious liberty scholar and advocate who is a professor at the University of Virginia Law School. The Baptist Joint Committee and Professor Laycock have worked for more than 25 years – often together – to enact, implement and defend a proper interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Our brief on behalf of the government in the Zubik case continues that mission.
The BJC’s brief, written by church-state law scholar and professor Douglas Laycock, makes the case that the religious organization’s arguments are dangerous to the cause of religious liberty. Read more about the case and the BJC’s brief at the BJC’s Zubik resource page here.
Come back to the blog later today for highlights from the oral argument transcript.