Two cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court are of special interest to many people of faith because they deal with the issue of religious liberties. I’ve previously asked you to pray for these cases because of their far-reaching implications and because the families behind the companies are committed Christians who need our support.
Cases like these tend to be complicated, drawn-out and tough to follow, which is why I’m glad to have Focus’ judicial analyst, Bruce Hausknecht, guest blog. He’ll explain what’s going on at the Supreme Court and in our nation.
How did we get here?
You may have heard about the upcoming Supreme Court decision involving two for-profit businesses: Hobby Lobby, the national craft store chain; and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania woodworking business. Maybe you’ve read a couple articles on the subject, or just heard that they are about religious freedom, but you’re not clear about the issues at stake or what has happened thus far. Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Unless you’re a lawyer or public policy wonk who has followed these cases for the last four years, they’re almost impossible to keep track of.
Over the next posts, I’m going to break down the cases for you and attempt to explain them in plain English (which can be difficult for a recovering lawyer like me, so please be patient).
For today’s installment, let me summarize a little of the history of these two cases for you.
First, both of these cases – and the approximately 90 others percolating through the federal courts – all resulted from passage of the 2010 federal healthcare law known as the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, which is also known as the Affordable Care Act. (I’ll refer to it as “ACA” or “Obamacare.”) The law requires certain employers to, among other things, provide for “preventive services” in their company health plans.
The law left it up to a federal agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to define exactly what “preventive services” means. HHS came up with such a list (known as the “HHS mandate”), which under the section for “covered preventive services for women,” includes 20 types of contraceptives. Four of those contraceptives can potentially cause an early abortion, such as “ella” and “Plan B.”
Business owners with religious conscience concerns about abortion, such as the owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga (among many others), do not wish to be complicit in abortion and objected to including the objectionable four contraceptives. It’s important to note that they do not object to providing for the other 16 contraceptives.
However, neither ACA nor the HHS mandate allow for religious objections or exemptions from the law by for-profit companies, even family-owned and operated businesses operated on faith-based principles such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.
Two other factors played a role in triggering this litigation. First, the government set Aug. 1, 2012 as the deadline for for-profit companies to begin complying with the HHS mandate. Second, the law imposes huge penalties for non-compliance. In fact, the fines, as we shall see in our next installment, are large enough to put Hobby Lobby and Conestoga out of business.
I’ll be back next week. In the meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a link so you can download our Thriving Values Religious Freedom resource – it’s available to you at no charge.