By Bishop Kevin J. Farrell
Publisher of The Texas Catholic
Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the right of the owners of two corporations, Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, to refuse to provide forms of contraception that they consider forms of abortion is very significant. While very narrow, the decision establishes the principle that requirements of the Affordable Care Act are subject to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
In my most recent blog, I quoted Pope Francis’ statement that “religious freedom is not simply freedom of thought or private worship. It is the freedom to live according to ethical principles, both privately and publicly.” The decision reflects and implements the U.S. bishops’ consistent support for litigants from the non-profit and for-profit sectors alike who have challenged the HHS mandate in court.
On Jan. 28, 2014 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, stated that “Catholics believe that the right to religious freedom proceeds from the inherent dignity of each and every human person, and that includes people who run businesses. They should not be specially excluded from the freedom to practice their faith in daily life.”
Policies of the Department of Health and Human Services implementing the ACA are not only onerous but impinge upon religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.