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June 28, 2013

Hold On! Freedom of Religion Still Exists

Joe Charlebois

Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian bookstores just received an injunction against implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) better known as Obamacare. Standing under The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) has been cited as the reason that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the lower court's ruling.


With all of the news that the Supreme Court released this week, which struck at the heart of many religious groups in regards to the question of same-sex marriage, this 10th Circuit ruling at least can give some solace to those who believe that there is still a place for religion in the United States.


In March 1993, RFRA was introduced in the House of Representatives by then Rep. Chuck Schumer (D., NY). The bill passed on a voice vote in the House and it passed in the Senate by a margin of 97-3. In October of 1993 President Bill Clinton signed it into law.


The Green family owners of the Hobby Lobby and Mardel stores had brought suit against Kathleen Sebelius - Secretary of Health and Human Services; Hilda Solis – Secretary of the Department of Labor, and Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary. The suit sought a waiver from Obamacare, claiming that the law violates the 1st Amendment right to Freedom of Religion.


The 10th Circuit held that "…Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under RFRA, have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm. But we remand the case to the district court for further proceedings on two of the remaining factors governing the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction.”


More specifically, the court rules as follows:


“As to jurisdictional matters, the court unanimously holds that Hobby Lobby and Mardel have Article III standing to sue and that the Anti-Injunction Act does not apply to this case… the Anti-Injunction Act is not jurisdictional and the government has forfeited reliance on this statute… the Greens have standing to bring RFRA and Free Exercise claims and that a preliminary injunction should be granted on their RFRA claim."


On July 1, 2013, Obamacare will begin requiring corporations that are eligible to be responsible for providing certain contraceptive services as part of the healthcare plans that are currently provided by the employer.  The federal government has ruled that there are few if any corporate entities that meet the criteria for a waiver in this regard and at this point no "for-profit" companies are even under consideration. Many corporations that have deep religious values that equate certain contraceptives with abortifacients would be compelled by the federal government to betray their faith. This is in direct violation of the 1st Amendment.


It will be interesting to see just what happens in this case as the freedom of religion in nearly every sector of society is being trampled upon. I also wonder if there would be nearly unanimous support in this year's Congress for The Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Would now Senator Schumer, who was the original sponsor, even bring this bill to the floor, let alone vote for it again. I would guess not. It is not the progressive thing to do anymore.


Finally, if this injunction is upheld and the Greens are victorious, there may be just enough to stem the recent tide of decisions that have hurt students, Christian teachers in our public school system, public servants and active duty members of our armed forces.


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