Home / Politics / SCOTUS Decision in Favor of Hobby Lobby, ET AL., Was all Downside for Obama Administration [OPINION]

SCOTUS Decision in Favor of Hobby Lobby, ET AL., Was all Downside for Obama Administration [OPINION]

Sylvia Mathews Burwell,  Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS)

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS)

Just scratching the surface of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., begs the question whether it was a political publicity play or a poorly designed ideological argument? The new HHS Secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s first high-profile act seems more like a tune-up than a passionate plea. But is does represent a major ideological setback for Obamacare proponents. With so little at upside, and ideology at stake, it is a wonder why democrats allowed it to come this far.

I try to keep an open mind when it comes to matters of politics and religion in the public sphere. Admittedly, I hold a plausibly bifurcated position on many of the lightening-rod issues such as birth control and abortion, to name a few. That is, I recognize the obligation to maintain a public position which preserves certain civil rights, even though doing so may be an affront to my own personally-held beliefs. It is an acceptance that there are likely an equal amount of people who oppose my views as those who support them. There is also a recognition that the public good may be at times served better by suppressing my own personal beliefs.

When it comes to the issue of religion in politics, there is no hiding if you are an elected official.  When the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, I understood that there would be social media confrontation in my immediate future. But as a person of a spiritual nature, these is also no escape from yourself when acting contrary to your own values. These are the seminal issues of our time and they immediately raise the degree of emotions in us all. However, that is all the more reason to dial the emotional rhetoric as it accomplishes very little. Easier said than done.

For the Christian faithful, the idea of abortion is a deeply divisive issue with clear implications in morality and the notion of salvation and virtue. For others there is less emotion, stigma.   Abortion and contraception have less (or perhaps inverse) transitive or binary moral implications. The notion that abortion or contraception as a fundamental human “right” is far from being a no-brainer. It becomes all the more ambiguous when you consider that contraception and abortion have been readily available free of charge to women for close to thirty years at places such as Planned Parenthood and similar programs in virtually every city in the U.S.

In handing-down the legal opinion of the SCOTUS decision regarding Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Justice Alito denied the jurisdiction of HHS and Secretary Burwell under ACA to compel closely-held businesses to provide contraceptive coverage to woman when doing so would “violate the sincerely-held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners.” In essence, the SCOTUS ruled that the HHS mandate for all employers to provide contraceptive coverage was unlawful and contrary to elements of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). Specifically, the court ruled that 4 contraceptive methods mandated in the ACA actually rise to the definition of abortions (or  are “abortifacients”). If the owners of the companies complied, they believe that they will be facilitating abortions and if they don’t comply they would face fines of up to $1.3 million per day in the case of one of the companies. This, the court ruled was deemed as a substantial burden. Under RFRA, a Government action that imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise must serve a compelling government interest.

And while HHS was assumed to have satisfied that requirement, it must also constitute the least restrictive means of serving that interest and the court ruled that “the mandate plainly fails that test.” Further, the opinion noted that there are [already other ways in place] in which Congress could equally ensure that every woman has cost-free access to the particular contraceptives at issue here and, indeed to all FDA-approved contraceptives.”

This case was brought as a stalking-horse for Democrats to create yet another class-war type controversy, this time a war on women by crusty-old conservative men. When in fact not one woman would lose coverage nor would one woman pay one penny extra to gain access to contraception, nor would they have to change their health plan. And not one woman was forced to use Planned Parenthood for the right to guilt-free, worry free, cost-free sex or abortion. Yet, cries of inequality and persecution against women are filling the social media channels. One frequent objection that is casually tossed around is that the decision is a “slap in the face to women everywhere.” This suit was brought by Sylvia Mathews Burwel, the replacement to the disgraced former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a stunt to erase an ugly smudge on the department and noting else. It was summarily dismissed in due fashion.

Timothy Kelly
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