Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Page 2

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores general information

Media for Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 30, 2014 (Part 2) in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 25, 2014 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 30, 2014 (Part 1) in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores

HHS has concluded that this accommodation is generally cost neutral for insurers.

Thus, a great many employers need not comply with the contraceptive mandate.

But if an employer is not exempt, and it does not comply, it must pay a very high price.

The companies involved in this case do not fall within any of the exemptions that I mentioned, and therefore, the Hahns, the Greens and their companies sued to stop enforcement of the contraceptive mandate insofar as it requires them to provide health insurance coverage for the four FDA approved contraceptives to which they object.

They asserted claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the lower courts disagreed on the question whether the corporations and their owners could sue.The Third Circuit held that they could not but the Tenth Circuit held that the businesses could bring suit.

We granted certiorari to decide whether RFRA permits the Government to demand that these closely held corporations and their owners provide health insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violates the owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

RFRA prohibits the Government from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

But RFRA provides an exemption if government “demonstrates” that application of the burden to the objecting party is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Applying RFRA in these cases potentially involves four separate questions.

The first of this is whether we can even entertain the claims that are presented due to the fact that the three companies involved are for-profit corporations.

For reasons explained at length in our opinion, we hold that the language of RFRA makes it clear that we can hear these claims.

The issue here is not the size of Hobby Lobby or the other companies.

It is their status as closely held for-profit corporations.

Many closely held for-profit corporations are mom and pop operations.

If we hold that RFRA -- if we held that RFRA does not apply in a case involving a closely held for-profit corporation, the owners of these small businesses would be put to a cruel choice.

On the one hand, they could incorporate and by doing so, give up the protection for religious liberty that RFRA provides.

On the other hand, they could give up the benefits of the corporate form.

Think of the owners of the corner store who were worried about the consequences for their family if everything the family owns could be taken by a judgment creditor.

The Congress that enacted RFRA wanted to provide very broad protection for religious liberty and we are confident that it did not want religious believers with dissenting views to be turned into second class citizens.

HHS would do just that and I will briefly discuss three of its arguments.

These are also endorsed by two of the dissenting justices.

One is that a corporation is really nothing but a piece of paper, and therefore, it cannot exercise religion.

That argument misses the point.

The owners of a closely held corporation can exercise religion.

The Hahns have religious beliefs and they are trying to live their lives in accordance with those beliefs.

The same is true of the Greens.

That is what is at stake, and that is why RFRA allows us to hear their claims.

The second argument is even more strange than the first.

It goes as follows.

It is contended that RFRA flash froze the protections for religious liberty that were specifically recognized by our First Amendment cases prior to April 17, 1990.