What’s the Big Deal with the Hobby Lobby Case? Part II

What’s the Big Deal with the Hobby Lobby Case? Part IIYesterday, I covered the majority opinion in the highly political and polarizing Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case that came down on Monday. When a decision is split 5-4, you know that it will likely ruffle some feathers. In Hobby Lobby, four justices dissented, including all of the female justices. Justice Ginsburg wrote the primary dissenting opinion, which spans 35 pages. Among her chief concerns is that, even though Hobby Lobby only objected to four contraceptives, the Court broadly ruled that “[t]he contraceptive mandate, as applied to closely held corporations, violates RFRA.” See id. at *49. Therefore, no closely held corporations—even those without religious objections—are required to provide contraceptive coverage to women under the ACA. Until Congress develops a workable alternative, women will be forced to find alternative insurance coverage or pay for their contraceptives out-of-pocket. “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby . . . would override significant interests of the corporations’ employees and covered dependents. It would deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage that the ACA would otherwise secure.” Id. at *8 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting).

The dissenting justices also worry that the Court’s holding has created a very slippery slope. First, by narrowly limiting its holding to closely held corporations, the Court has just opened the door to publicly held corporations making the same objections. Second, the dissenting justices wonder how the Court will determine in the future which sincerely-held religious objections to certain parts of the ACA (for example, immunizations for children) will deserve accommodations. Making that choice, they fear, will require the Court to become entangled in deciding which beliefs are meritorious, which, as Justice Ginsburg questions, “Isn’t the Court disarmed from making such a judgment given its recognition that courts must not presume to determine . . . the plausibility of a religious claim?” Id. at *33 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting) (internal quotation omitted). The dissenting justices also question where the stopping point is for granting corporations “personhood” for certain reasons, with the Hobby Lobby opinion seemingly being an extension of the Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision regarding political speech. In short, they “fear that the Court has ventured into a minefield.” Id. at *35 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting). To be sure, this will not be the last development in this field for employers.

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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