Supreme Court Narrowly Rules For Hobby Lobby
Image: Getty Images

At the heart of the two-year legal battle between Hobby Lobby's owners and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a single sentence from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).

"Governments," the law reads, "should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification."

In a 5–4 ruling today, the Supreme Court decided the federal government failed to live up to that standard.

At issue was a section of the Affordable Care Act which requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide health care insurance. In implementing the law, HHS named 20 kinds of contraception that needed to be covered by employers. But the owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, whose cases were decided together today, considered four of those contraceptives potential abortifacients due to the way they can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in a mother's womb. Their refusal to pay for those four methods meant they faced millions of dollars in fines.

That violated RFRA, wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the majority opinion, because it penalizes the religious beliefs of the Green family, evangelical Christians who own Hobby Lobby, a craft store chain with 500 stores and more than 13,000 employees, and the Hahn family, Mennonites whose company employs more than 1,000 employees in five factories across the country.

While the case was decided 5–4, the opinions that accompanied the court's decision also signal that seven of the nine justices agree that businesses can make religious liberty claims in court—an important ruling, said Joshua Hawley, senior counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

"The opinion was right on the money … that ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

June
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Current IssueThe World’s Biggest Trafficking Problem Remains in the Background
The World’s Biggest Trafficking Problem Remains in the Background Subscriber Access Only
How Christians in Cambodia are drawing attention to labor trafficking and the quiet power of prevention.
RecommendedIndonesia's Blasphemy Conviction Threatens Muslim Democracy. But I Still Have Hope.
Indonesia's Blasphemy Conviction Threatens Muslim Democracy. But I Still Have Hope.
Why Christians should support the type of Muslims who support Ahok.
TrendingISIS Kills 29 Christians on Church Bus Trip to Popular Monastery
ISIS Kills 29 Christians on Church Bus Trip to Popular Monastery
(UPDATED) Egypt cancels Ramadan’s opening celebration as Copts resist revenge.
Editor's PickDo This in Remembrance
Do This in Remembrance
Participating in the “high holy day” of American civil religion is beneficial for Christians, so long as we do so thoughtfully.
Christianity Today
Supreme Court Narrowly Rules For Hobby Lobby
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

June 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.