Letter to the Editor: Court needs to say no to Hobby Lobby exemption
As of this writing, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments from two corporations challenging the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are asking the court to exempt them from the requirement that employer health plans cover at no extra cost to the consumer all birth control measures covered by the Food and Drug Administration.
These owners claim that such a requirement violates their religious liberty simply because they personally disapprove certain forms of contraceptives despite the fact that their companies are not religious organizations nor are they affiliated with such organizations. The court, in my opinion, must rule against these companies. The real threat here is that they are imposing their religious beliefs on thousands of their employees who do not share their religious beliefs.
This is not a first amendment issue. Political pundits point out that the court must not rule on constitutional grounds, rather it must rule if it violates the Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which states that the government may not “substantially burden a person’s religious liberty” unless there is a compelling government interest in doing so.
The government will argue that the law does not apply because secular, for-profit corporations are not “persons” capable of religious behavior such as praying.
The claim that this law imposes a burden on religious liberty is notoriously weak. The company owners are free to worship as they please. It is a personal decision when an employee decides to use an insurance plan for contraceptives and by no stretch of the imagination does it burden one’s religious liberty.
This is a women’s issue. The government has a compelling interest in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, which are the leading cause of abortions, and in furthering women’s health and equality. Cost is a major factor in deterring women from choosing a more reliable method that advances gender equality.
If the court rules in favor of the corporations, it will create an enormous ripple effect that would encourage companies to seek exemptions from other health care needs like blood transfusions and anesthesia. The court must not go there.
Gene Rigelon, Front Royal
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