The First Amendment is clear:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … .”
Certainly the Founding Fathers would be surprised to learn that today the federal government believes citizens forfeit that freedom when they become employers. That’s what the founders of Hobby Lobby and more than 80 other family businesses and religious employers are contending in lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has required that they include abortion-inducing drugs in their employees’ medical insurance coverage.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed last week to consider the Hobby Lobby case, as well as a similar one involving Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania cabinet-making company owned by a Mennonite family. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor, but a federal appeals court in Philadelphia rejected Conestoga’s claim.
We hope that the high court rules on the side of Hobby Lobby and freedom, instead of intrusive government meddling.
Hobby Lobby was founded in 1972 by David Green, who began the business making picture frames in his home. The Oklahoma City arts and crafts chain now employs 13,000 people in 578 locations, including two in the Augusta-Aiken area. The Green family does not hide its evangelical Christian views. “We believe that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” it says on its website.
Although some news accounts have said that Hobby Lobby opposes providing birth control to its employees, the company actually only objects to four of the 20 contraceptives on the HHS list. Those drugs include Ella, known as the week-after pill, and Plan B One-Step, or the morning-after pill. Both drugs can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
The Obama administration contends that abortion can occur only after the fertilized egg is implanted in a woman’s uterus. But the Becket Fund, which is providing Hobby Lobby’s legal representation, has accused the White House of playing “semantic games,” noting that most Christian denominations believe that life begins at conception. So an abortion results when any drug prevents implantation of a fertilized egg.
In his May 2009 appearance at the University of Notre Dame, President Obama appeared to be open to some accommodations to Americans of faith who believe that citizenship should not require violation of their consciences.
“So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term,” he said. “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science.”
That sounds a little like “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”