Can any law in the United States, such as a nationwide health-care management system imposed by the government, be so important that it can order people to violate their religious faith, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment?
That’s the question before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases, which will have oral arguments March 25.
The dispute has been raised in literally dozens of cases across the nation already, but the Supreme Court agreed to hear the two cases, one brought by Hobby Lobby owners, the Greens, and the other brought by the Conestoga Wood owners, the Hahn family.
They both argue that their Christian faith prevents them – under any circumstances – from participating in the enabling the deaths of unborn babies.
Obamacare requires employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in health-care plans for their employees on request.
Government attorneys have argued that they aren’t asking the people as individuals to violate their faith. But the family owners insist their businesses are inseparable from their personal faith.
The issue even has drawn a key Obamacare supporter into the dispute on the side of the religious families.
Former Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., provided the deciding vote for Obamacare, even though he had objected to the plan to have taxpayers fund abortions.
He gave up his opposition, drawing scorn from pro-lifers as a traitor, when President Obama promised to issue an executive order separate from the law that would respect prohibitions on federal funding of abortion and freedom of conscience and religion.
Stupak recently wrote a commentary published by USA Today to support the Green and Hahn families.
“As a private citizen,” he wrote, “I’m proud to stand with the Green and Hahn families and their corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, in seeking to uphold our most cherished beliefs that we, as American citizens, should not be required to relinquish our conscience and moral convictions in order to implement the Affordable Care Act.”
He said his objection is to the Obamacare mandate that forces businesses and their owners to cover “methods of contraception that may cause the abortion of new embryos: new human beings.”
Stupak said that in the “battle over the ACA’s passage, pro-life Democratic members of Congress negotiated with the president to ensure that the act would not be employed to promote abortion.”
He “received an ironclad commitment that our conscience would remain free and our principles would be honored,” he said.
Stupak wants the Supreme Court to rule that the companies and their Christian owners are not required to provide contraceptives that “could terminate human life at its earliest stages.”
Such provisions, he said, date to Gen. George Washington, who exempted Quakers from bearing arms.
The Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases are just two among nearly 90 lawsuits pending over the Obamacare abortifacient mandate.
One of the most pointed cases was brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who run homes for the elderly in Denver and other locations.
The nuns have argued their faith prohibits them “from participating in the government’s program to distribute, subsidize, and promote the use of contraceptives, sterilization, or abortion-inducing drugs and devices.”
The government has persistently demanded that the Little Sisters “give up” their position on abortion, a brief filed with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in their case charges.
“The government has fought all the way to the Supreme Court, and continues to fight in this court, to force the Little Sisters to execute and deliver its mandatory contraceptive coverage form. … If the Little Sisters refuse, the government promises to impose severe financial penalties,” the brief notes.
The district court that ordered the Little Sisters to sign a form authorizing a third-party promotion of abortifacients “essentially re-writes the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs for them.”
“Standard moral reasoning underpins the Little Sisters’ refusal to designate, authorize, incentivize, and obligate a third party to do that which the Little Sisters may not do directly,” the brief states.
“And regardless of what the trial court and the government think the Little Sisters should believe, the undisputed fact is that they do believe their religion forbids them from signing EBSA Form 700. It was not for the district court to disagree with the line drawn by the Little Sisters.”
The brief cites a previous case in the 10th Circuit in which the judges determined, on another issue of faith, “Even if others of the same faith may consider the exercise at issue unnecessary or less valuable than the claimant, even if some may find it illogical, that doesn’t take it outside the law’s protection.
“The government has also violated the appellants’ rights under the Religion Clause and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. As to the former, the government is unconstitutionally discriminating among religious organizations. As to the latter, the government is unconstitutionally compelling the Little Sisters both to say things that they do not want to say and not to say things that they do want to say. The First Amendment does not permit any of these violations.”
The government’s power to compel people to violate their religious beliefs is demonstrated by the penalties of millions of dollars a year for failure to submit, the brief says.
The Supreme Court previously stepped in and granted an injunction protecting the nuns from the anti-religious requirements of Obamacare while the presentation to the 10th Circuit was assembled.
“Only the Supreme Court’s extraordinary grant of injunctive relief pending appeal has thus far spared the Little Sisters from having to decide whether to violate their religion or to incur massive federal finds that could cripple their ministry,” the appeal notes.
“Regardless of whether the government sincerely believes EBSA Form 700 is morally meaningful, the relevant legal question is whether the Little Sisters do. And on that point, there is no dispute: the Little Sisters cannot execute and deliver the contraceptive coverage form without violating their religious conscience.
“The government may think the Little Sisters should reason differently about law and morality, but their actual religious beliefs – the beliefs that matter in this case – have led them to conclude that they cannot sign or send the government’s form.”
So far, the Becket Fund is representing Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor, GuideStone, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University and Belmont Abbey College.
The Alliance Defense Fund is representing other plaintiffs.
Sister Mary Bernard of the Little Sisters explains the issue: “We’re here to live for Him, and for Him and the elderly. That’s our life.”
WND reported on the nun’s video statement: