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.

July/August
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Current IssueWant to Help Christians Stay in the Middle East? Start with Your Vacation.
Want to Help Christians Stay in the Middle East? Start with Your Vacation. Subscriber Access Only
Both pilgrims and pleasure seekers allow Arab believers to resist exodus amid ISIS.
RecommendedSupreme Court Saves Christian Hospitals from Crushing Pension Payments
Supreme Court Saves Christian Hospitals from Crushing Pension Payments
Unanimous victory for religiously affiliated health care groups will affect 100 lawsuits.
TrendingKay Warren: 'We Were in Marital Hell'
Kay Warren: 'We Were in Marital Hell'
Through God's work in our lives, we've beaten the odds that divorce would be the outcome of our ill-advised union.
Editor's PickFinding My ‘True Self’ As a Same-Sex Attracted Woman
Finding My ‘True Self’ As a Same-Sex Attracted Woman
In my young-adult struggle with sexual identity, both legalistic condemnation and progressive license left me floundering.
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.