SCOTUS up angle1Written by Don Byrd

In the newest issue of Report From the Capital, the Baptist Joint Committee’s Brent Walker and Holly Hollman each analyze the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby. By now, you know that the Court ruled unconstitutional the enforcement of the ACA’s contraception coverage mandate against closely held corporations whose owners object on religious grounds to providing such coverage.

These two pieces are must-read perspectives!

Walker, the BJC’s Executive Director, emphasized a narrow reading of the decision that leaves its likely impact “not as grim as some critics assert.” Here is an excerpt:

Justice Kennedy emphasized the limited nature of the Court’s opinion. He held up the importance of the Court’s assumption that the Affordable Care Act “furthers a legitimate and compelling interest in the health of female employees.” He also was more attentive than the majority opinion to the need to protect the rights of third parties. After noting the importance of the accommodation of religion in our religiously plural culture, he stated firmly that accommodation may not “unduly restrict other persons, such as employees, in protecting their own interests, interests the law deems compelling.” Thus, the need for Justice Kennedy’s joinder as a fifth vote on any viable Court majority would likely temper willy-nilly extensions of the holding in Hobby Lobby beyond the confines of its own terms.

Hollman, the BJC’s General Counsel, reiterated that Justice Kennedy’s application of the law was fair, but focused on troubling aspects of Justice Alito’s majority opinion. Particularly, she warns that Alito’s reading of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) may stretch the law beyond its purpose.

Here is a sample:

When fighting for RFRA’s passage, no one had the religious interests of large, for-profit corporations in mind. Legislative debates did not anticipate the Affordable Care Act and the potential conflict between religious objections to certain birth control methods held by the owner of a business and the medical importance of those methods to some employees. Balancing interests under RFRA, one would not assume an employer’s religious objection would override an employee’s health care benefits provided by law. While the Hobby Lobby scenario — and countless others — were not specifically anticipated, the statute’s broad terms were designed to offer strong protection for religious liberty in a variety of settings. Its design was based upon case law that recognized the importance of balancing interests.

Read them both:

Brent Walker: “Reflections: Exploring Hobby Lobby’s narrow victory

K. Hollyn Hollman: “Hollman Report: Examining RFRA in Light of Hobby Lobby