On this Fourth of July edition of Register Radio, religious liberty is the focus again.  Jeanette De Melo talks with the Becket Fund’s Montserrat Alvarado about the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. Also, EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw joins us to talk about EWTN’s emergency relief from the contraception mandate and  what  the Supreme Court’s ruling means for the Network.

The Hobby Lobby Ruling with Montserrat Alvarado

Maria Montserrat Alvarado joined the Becket Fund in 2009 to help run the Voices Symposium Conference in Mexico City. She was elevated to her current position in 2010, and leads initiatives in development, communications, events/conference planning and administrative/financial management. She’s here to talk about what everyone’s talking about these days, the Supreme Court’s decision in favor or Hobby Lobby and other closely held companies.

On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby. The ruling means that Hobby Lobby will not have to include abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans. 

The most significant aspects, according to Alvarado, are four-fold.

“The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” Alvarado said. The first significant aspect, then, is that “closely held companies do have religious rights,” which are companies owned by families.

The second piece was that imposing million-dollar fines on these companies is a substantial burden or too much for them to handle. Alvarado said that the conclusion was that it is untenable to ask these companies to violate their religious freedom.

Alvarado pointed out that the third significant piece of the case was that this was not the least restrictive means available for the government for them to accomplish the goal of trying to provide these abortion-inducing drugs and devices. “They could have done this many different ways,” Alvarado said, such as paying for it themselves (meaning the government), which was suggested by the Court.

The fourth piece was that “religious liberty must be balanced against compelling government interests,” and Alvarado explained that this refers to safety issues. 

Did the government have a compelling interest? Should the government be telling us what is in women’s best interest for health care? The Supreme Court didn’t need to consider that, Alvarado said, because the case was doomed on those grounds. “The Court saved that decision for another day,” Alvarado said.

This decision only applies to closely held companies, those that are family owned. It would not include publicly traded corporations or anything related to shareholders or investors. It is possible to look at nonprofit organizations  and nonprofit religious organizations next; Alvarado said, “those are the ones that are up next. These are the cases where the government does not deem that they are religious enough to be exempted properly.” She cited the Little Sisters of the Poor and EWTN as examples.

Listen to the full interview to hear what Alvarado had to say about applying this decision to other cases, the opinions of the dissenters, and the work of the Becket Fund. You can find out all the latest information on the HHS mandate and protests at the Becket Fund’s HHS Info Central.

EWTN’s Emergency Relief from the Contraception Mandate with Michael Warsaw

Michael Warsaw is the Chairman and CEO of EWTN, and the publisher of the National Catholic Register.  He joins us again this week to discuss the injunction just granted to the network, and what this will mean for us moving forward.

On June 30, just a couple of hours after the Supreme Court released the Hobby Lobby decision, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta granted injunctive relief barring the government from enforcing the mandate against EWTN. Just as important, the injunction also barred the government from enforcing the fines that would start to accrue on July 1, amounting to $35,000 per day, $13 million per year, because EWTN refuses to comply with the government’s mandate.

“That was a great relief, certainly,” Warsaw said, noting that “what was also quite interesting about it was that, in addition to simply granting us the order, the Court issued a 29-page opinion on this ruling, and that’s rather unusual for this kind of case, I’m told.” That opinion was rather strong and called the government’s accommodations scheme and the permissions form requires from certain religious organizations “rubbish.” 

The judge was very clear, throughout the opinion, that EWTN is likely to succeed on the merits of its case, stating that the government has really overstepped and using some of the language from the Hobby Lobby decision.

Warsaw said “there’s no question” that the Hobby Lobby decision certainly bolstered the opinion. 

“I don’t interpret the [Supreme] Court’s decision [in the Hobby Lobby case] as being problematic for the plaintiffs. I don’t think the language of the opinion is an endorsement of the accommodation scheme that the government has put forward. I think the Court is merely saying that obviously the government has less restrictive means available to it. It admitted such by creating this scheme for religious organizations,” Warsaw said.

To hear more of what Warsaw had to say about how this battle continues to impact EWTN, be sure to listen to this week’s show.