WASHINGTON — In a key religious-freedom case, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act gives protection to closely held companies like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties from the application of the Health and Human Services' contraception mandate to their companies’ health-insurance plans.
The two Christian-owned companies had received conflicting appellate-court judgments, with one appeal court supporting Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against the HHS mandate on the grounds it compromised the company owners’ religious faith, while another appeal court rejected a similar claim by Conestoga Wood.
The court majority concluded that the Obama administration failed to prove that the mandate is the least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing the provision of free access to contraception in health-insurance plans, Bloomberg Law’s SCOTUSblog reported immediately following the release of the decision. And it said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires that closely held companies receive the same accommodation the administration has already granted to nonprofit organizations that object to the mandate on religious grounds.
Michael Warsaw, chairman of the board and CEO of the Eternal Word Global Network, which applied June 27 for emergency relief from the Supreme Court regarding the mandate, said, “EWTN is extremely pleased with today’s Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The fact that the court believes that the government has less restrictive means of accomplishing its goals is very helpful. However, it remains unclear whether this decision addresses the serious objections that EWTN has raised with regard to the government’s ‘accommodation’ scheme for nonprofit faith-based organizations. We are consulting with our legal team to determine how this significant decision applies to EWTN and our pending case before the courts.”
More to follow.