The Norman Transcript

July 1, 2014

Residents react to Hobby Lobby ruling

BY Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — An Edmond attorney who represented several members of Congress in Hobby Lobby’s challenge of the Obamacare contraception mandate said the Supreme Court ruled narrowly and correctly.

U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled Monday the federal contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act violates The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. 

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of David and Barbara Green and their family businesses, Hobby Lobby and Mardel, declaring they will not be required to violate their faith by including four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in the company’s health insurance plan or face severe fines from the government. 

Andy Lester, a founding member of Lester, Loving & Davies in Edmond, represented several members of Congress in both the Senate, including Sen. James Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and the House when the case was at the Tenth Circuit level last year.

“What we were arguing was not too far off from what the Supreme Court ultimately held, and that’s that the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act does apply to a corporation such as Hobby Lobby,” Lester said.  

Under the law, a coporation that has a sincerely held religious belief is protected, Lester said. The law was written to not just protect corporations but people and their corporations as well, Lester said. 

Other reactions: The Green family has no objections to 16 of the 20 contraceptives required in the federally mandated health insurance coverage. The drugs they do object to include Plan B and Ella, the so-called morning-after pill and the week-after pill. 

Covering these drugs and devices would violate their deeply held religious belief that life begins at the moment of conception, when an egg is fertilized, Hobby Lobby attorneys have argued.

The Greens believe Hobby Lobby cannot fulfill its mission while paying for drugs and devices that conflict with their beliefs. Hobby Lobby attorneys say the company will continue to cover preventative contraceptives.

“Today the nation’s highest court has reaffirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles,” Hobby Lobby co-founder Barbara Green said via a statement posted on the company website.

Lori Windham, senior counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby, said the action is a landmark decision for religious freedom.

“The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” Windham said.

Reaction from both sides of the issue was swift.

Dissenters included Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy organization.

Chaudhary said 99 percent of sexually active women use birth control for a variety of health reasons — and 1 in 3 have struggled to afford it.

“Today’s court decision by five men sets an outrageous precedent, putting women’s health at risk by singling out women’s health care for discrimination,” Chaudhary said.

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