JEFFERSON CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court June 30 voted 5-4 to uphold the right of business people to practice their faith at work in what is the most important victory for religious liberty in decades.
The case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, concerned Obama Administration rules that would have forced business owners to fund abortion-inducing drugs. The Green family, who own Hobby Lobby, object to abortion on religious grounds and filed suit to defend their constitutional right not to be forced to violate their faith. Hobby Lobby has offered contraceptive coverage under their employee health care plans for years. The Greens objected to providing coverage only for a small class of drugs that act as abortifacients, in direct violation of their religious beliefs.
“Today’s decision is an enormous victory for personal freedom in America,” said Josh Hawley, senior counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented Hobby Lobby. Hawley is also founder and president of the Missouri Liberty Project founder.
“This decision confirms that people of conscience are welcome in business and that all Americans have the right to follow their moral and social convictions in every walk of life,” Hawley said. “The Obama Administration was wrong to assault this freedom. The Constitution has won out today.”
Missouri Baptist Convention leaders also expressed elation with the court’s decision.
“As believers, we must understand that this decision ultimately saves the lives of precious little children,” said MBC Executive Director John Yeats. “Certainly, we are delighted that the SCOTUS provided a favorable ruling for one of the most profound religious liberty decisions of my lifetime.”
Don Hinkle, MBC director of public policy and editor of The Pathway, praised the Green family for their faith and courage. “Caesar is not lord of the conscience and we are thankful that the court affirmed this powerful truth. Freedom still rings loudly in America and we have the Green family to thank for standing in the gap so courageously.”
Michael Whitehead, MBC general counsel, echoed the sentiments of Yeats and Hinkle.
“Dictates of conscience won out over the dictators of conformity,” he said. “Government bureaucrats can’t coerce or punish family businesses who have a religious conscience against paying for abortion-causing pills for employees.”
Hawley also praised the Green family for their courage in fighting for the personal freedom for all Americans.
“It has been an exceptional privilege to join my Becket Fund colleagues in representing Hobby Lobby and the Green family,” Hawley said. “They are remarkable people. And because of their courage, personal freedom and religious liberty are safer today for all Americans.”
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders joined in the chorus of those praising the court’s decision.
Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission reacts to the decision:
“This is an exhilarating victory for religious freedom. The Greens refused to render to Caesar that which did not belong to him and the Supreme Court agreed,” Russell D. Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said. “As a Baptist, I am encouraged that our ancestors’ struggle for the First Amendment has been vindicated. This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets with joy.”
The major issue in this case was and is religious liberty as today’s decision makes very clear, said R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
“The debate over contraception will continue, but the debate over religious liberty has been significantly strengthened and clarified by this landmark Supreme Court ruling,” he said.
Americans don’t surrender their freedom by opening a family business, said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel David Cortman. “In its decision, the Supreme Court affirmed that all Americans, including family business owners, must be free to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of government punishment. In a free and diverse society, we respect the freedom to live out our convictions.
“In holding that the HHS mandate is unlawful, we reject the Department of Health & Human Service’s (HHS) argument that the owners of the companies forfeited all Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA passed by Congress) protection when they decided to organize their businesses as corporations rather than sole proprietorships or general partnerships,” the majority opinion states. “The plain terms of RFRA make it perfectly clear that Congress did not discriminate in this way against men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.”This mandate punishes people of faith, but exempts 100 million others for non-religious reasons, explained ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “It’s unjust to single out family businesses for their beliefs while letting millions of others off the hook.”
The ruling applies only to private owned businesses, not those publicly traded corporations.