Rhetoric is escalating in Washington as the March 25 date draws near for Hobby Lobby to plead its First Amendment case at the U.S. Supreme Court against the Obama Administration’s mandate that all new health plans cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. As a private business, Hobby Lobby does not fall under the narrow religious exemption of the mandate, so it would be required to include such coverage when its health plan renews or potentially face crippling federal fines of $1.3 million per day for its refusal to comply.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) took to the Senate Floor this week to trumpet her support for this sharp-toothed government requirement that employers provide for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs despite any religious objection. She declared:
[M]y hope is that the Court realizes that women working for private companies should be afforded the same access to medical care, regardless of who signs their paycheck. We can’t allow for-profit, secular, corporations or their shareholders to deny female employees’ access to comprehensive women’s health care, under the guise of a ‘religious exemption.’ It’s as if we’re saying that because you are a CEO or shareholder in a corporation, your rights are more important than your employees who happen to be women.
Senator Murray and her allies on Capitol Hill, as well as groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL, later took to Twitter to proclaim the employer requirements in this area are “#NotMyBossBusiness.” Notably, a number of individuals worked to counter this “tweet-fest” by offering pro-First Amendment arguments to this hashtag.
NRB has repeatedly sounded its solidarity with Hobby Lobby in the Christian craft store’s David-and-Goliath struggle against the Executive Branch. Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, has declared, “We stand with Hobby Lobby, and against Obamacare, for the sanctity of human life and the First Amendment freedom to live out that conviction. Christian business owners like the Greens should not be forced by the government to violate their religious beliefs by providing for abortion.” In addition, NRB’s Office of General Counsel filed an Amicus Curiae (“Friend of the Court”) brief arguing for appropriate “breathing room” for religious freedom rights fundamental to the American Republic. The NRB Board of Directors, a body of nearly 100 key leaders among Christian communicators, unanimously approved a similarly-minded Resolution last month. The Board also called on NRB members “to pray for the Justices of the United States Supreme Court that they may render just decisions which provide constitutionally sound and robust protections for the exercise of religious freedom in America.”
Hobby Lobby is being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty before the Supreme Court. In addition, Alliance Defending Freedom, an NRB member, and allied attorneys will be representing a Pennsylvania Mennonite Christian family in a linked case before the Court (Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius) that day.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations/NRB.org