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Employer Scores Religious Freedom Victory Against Contraceptive Coverage Mandate

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An employer who has spent the better part of the past year challenging the contraceptive coverage mandate set forth last year by the Department of Health and Human Services has scored a substantial victory before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals:

DENVER — In a health care decision giving hope to opponents of the federal birth-control coverage mandate, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Hobby Lobby stores won’t have to start paying millions of dollars in fines next week for not complying with the requirement.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver decided the Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain can proceed with its case and won’t be subject to fines in the meantime.

The reprieve gives Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. more time to argue in a lower court that for-profit businesses — not just currently exempted religious groups — should be allowed to seek an exception if the law violates their religious beliefs. The company had sued to overturn the mandate on grounds that it violates the faith of founder and CEO David Green and his family.

The appeals court remanded the case for more argument, but the judges indicated Hobby Lobby had a reasonable chance of success.

“Sincerely religious persons could find a connection between the exercise of religion and the pursuit of profit,” the judges wrote. “Would an incorporated kosher butcher really have no claim to challenge a regulation mandating non-kosher butchering practices?”

More than 30 businesses in several states have challenged the contraception mandate. Hobby Lobby and a sister store — Christian booksellers Mardel Inc. — won expedited federal review because the chain would have faced fines Monday for not covering the required forms of contraception.

The U.S. Department of Justice has argued that allowing for-profit corporations to exempt themselves from requirements that violate their religious beliefs would be in effect allowing the business to impose its religious beliefs on employees.

Lawyers for the Green family called the ruling a “resounding victory for religious freedom.”

The Greens “run their business according to their Christian beliefs,” said Emily Hardman, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the judges were wrong to say Hobby Lobby had a case.

“This court has taken a huge step toward handing bosses and company owners a blank check to meddle in the private medical decisions of their workers,” executive director Barry Lynn said in a statement. “This isn’t religious freedom; it’s the worst kind of religious oppression.”

Given that this was a unanimous ruling by all of the active Judges on the Tenth Circuit, that is a pretty strong signal to the District Court that it will have to view Hobby Lobby’s claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) quite serious, and that the Circuit Court will likely view any denial of a preliminary injunction skeptically if it were to come back t them on appeal.

Since the HHS mandate came into effect, there have been a large number of lawsuits filed about the matter around the country, most of which are still making their way through the litigation and/or appellate process. In some cases, Courts have found that the mandate unconstitutionally infringed on the religious beliefs of  employers while in others they have found that the employer’s argument was without merit. While I haven’t been keeping track of the rulings on this mandate from all of the District Courts around the country, it appears from what I have read that the Courts have been roughly equally divided on the issue, which likely means that we are headed, inevitably, for a Supreme Court ruling on this issue, although given the procedural posture of this matter in most of the cases, it seems as though it may not be until the Court’s October 2014 term that there’s actually a case ready for review by the nation’s highest court.

Nonetheless, it seems fairly clear that this case, or any of the other number of ones currently pending in the Federal Court system will make its way to One First Street and that the Supreme Court will be dealing with this issue in the next several years.  Some of these cases, I would think, will be easier for the Court to handle. To the extent that the mandate is being applied against institutions directly run by Church organizations, such as hospitals and schools, then it strikes me that it is going to be difficult for the government to sustain the mandate, whether its on First Amendment grounds or under the RFRA. Additionally, as was noted more than a year ago, the RFRA arguably provides both religious and secular employers with a significantly strong argument:

[I]t will force the government to prove that federal regulators did not have another way to expand women’s access to birth control that would be less burdensome on religion — an argument experts say conservatives can win.

“I think the odds are pretty good for the plaintiffs here,” Marc DeGirolami, an assistant law professor at St. John’s University, told The Hill.

Because of the law, courts now have to apply certain standards to federal actions that might inadvertently infringe on religious liberty. In one sense, laws under scrutiny must aim to achieve a “compelling” government interest. In another sense, they must be designed in a way that burdens religion as little as possible.

The second claim might be hard for the administration to meet when regulators could have taken many other steps — like expanding Medicaid — to provide better access to birth control, DeGirolami said.

“Even if one concedes that the state has a ‘compelling interest’ in ensuring that all women have free access to contraception,” he said, “there are many, many less restrictive means of achieving that interest.”

One possible signal as to where Federal Courts may end up going in these cases can be seen in a 2012 case from Oregon where it was held that a pharmacist could not be forced to dispense the “morning after” pill because it violated her religious beliefs. Reading through the opinion in that case, it’s not hard to see where the same arguments could be made in the case of an employer like Hobby Lobby and the contraceptive coverage mandate. Additionally, this excerpt from the 10th Circuit’s opinion in the Hobby Lobby case seems highly relevant:

The government urges that there can be no substantial burden here because ”[a]n employee’s decision to use her health coverage to pay for a particular item or service cannot properly be attributed to her employer.” Aple. Br. at 13. There are variations on this same theme in many of the amicus briefs supporting the government’s position, all of which stand for essentially the same proposition: one does not have a RFRA claim if the act of alleged government coercion somehow depends on the independent actions of third parties.

This position is fundamentally flawed because it advances an understanding of “substantial burden” that presumes “substantial” requires an inquiry into the theological merit of the belief in question rather than the intensity of the coercion applied by the government to act contrary to those beliefs. In isolation, the term ”substantial burden” could encompass either definition, but for the reasons explained below, the latter interpretation prevails. Our only task is to determine whether the claimant’s belief is sincere, and if so, whether the government has applied substantial pressure on the claimant to violate that belief. No one disputes in this case the sincerity of Hobby Lobby and Mardel’s  religious beliefs. And because the contraceptive-coverage requirement places substantial pressure on Hobby Lobby and Mardel to violate their sincere religious beliefs, their exercise of religion is substantially burdened within the meaning of RFRA

With this dilemma created by the statute, we believe that Hobby Lobby and Mardel have made a threshold showing regarding a substantial burden.  Ordinarily, the question of substantial burden would involve subsidiary factual issues. See Kikumura, 242 F.3d at 961; id. at 966 (Holloway, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part); id. at 966-67 (Ebel, J., concurring). But in the district court, the government did not question the significance of the financial burden. And, the government has not done so in this appeal. Thus, the district court record leaves only one possible scenario: Hobby Lobby and Mardel  incurred a substantial burden on their ability to exercise their religion because the law requires Hobby Lobby and Mardel to:

  • compromise their religious beliefs,
  • pay close to $475 million more in taxes every year, or
  • pay roughly $26 million more in annual taxes and drop health insurance benefits for all employees.

This is precisely the sort of Hobson’s choice described in Abdulhaseeb, and Hobby Lobby and Mardel have established a substantial burden as a matter of law.

As I said, other Courts have ruled differently on this issue, but the RFRA argument strikes me as a particularly strong one. At some point, we’ll have to get a ruling on the matter from the Supreme Court, but until then this was clearly a victory for Hobby Lobby and a signal to the District Court that they ought to be very careful about denying an injunction given what the 10th Circuit has already said.

Here’s the 10th Circuit’s ruling:

Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius et al by dmataconis

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    [I]t will force the government to prove that federal regulators did not have another way to expand women’s access to birth control that would be less burdensome on religion — an argument experts say conservatives can win.

    But this presupposes that such requirements _are_ “burdensome on religion”, which I don’t think is settled. It’s one thing for gov’t to force you to follow religious tenets – that’s right out. But creating a system whereby people of other beliefs are free to pursue _their_ tenets seems like a much more reasonable thing. If the mere _existence_ of other beliefs offends you, tough sh*t. your only recourse is to suck it up.

    That said, I could see this sort of argument being pulled off by a purely privately-held company – I wouldn’t necessarily _agree_, but I can at least see the basis. But for a publicly-traded company? No – you cannot point to any particular _person_ whose beliefs could conceivably be oppressed there.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  2. al-Ameda says:

    I find it interesting how these type of employers have no analogous moral problem with Viagra or Cialis – “medication” that allows 50 and 60 year old married men to get their 22 year old secretaries pregnant.

    Yet another example of why Single Payer is the only sensible system of health insurance.

    We’re just too dumbed down to get it done.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 7

  3. Caj says:

    Hobby Lobby! No surprise there. Religious bunch of cretins who will moan about abortions but do not want to give coverage for any form of contraception that will prevent said abortions! Let women churn out child after child that’s fine with them as abortion is off the table. No matter that some can’t afford or even want another child.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

  4. Scott says:

    So businesses now can be said to have religious beliefs.

    Individuals can now impose their beliefs on others by their actions and inactions.

    Exactly who’s freedoms are being assaulted here?

    Talks about roads to serfdom. Seems like the rights of an abstract entity, i.e. business, now trump those of individual human beings.

    Slippery slope indeed.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 1

  5. rudderpedals says:

    Smith was a poor decision handed down during the extension of the drug war into essentially an employer drug-test mandate as policy required workers comp companies to offer discounts to drug tested workplaces.

    The Court took a good doctrine of what was forbidden – laws that even though of common application inhibit use of an essential worship sacrament – and stupidly cut out the essential worship sacrament element.

    Undoing RFRA and Smith isn’t going to but really needs to happen.

    No, thank you Justice Scalia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. PD Shaw says:

    @legion: “I could see this sort of argument being pulled off by a purely privately-held company – I wouldn’t necessarily _agree_, but I can at least see the basis. But for a publicly-traded company?”

    Just glancing at the opinion, Hobby-Lobby is family owned S-corp that has religious principles in some of its organizational documents. So that distinction wasn’t rejected by this opinion. But as a practical matter, would any publicly-traded company care about a contraception mandate?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. gVOR08 says:

    So we’re defending the right of religious zealots to provide substandard health insurance to their employees. One would have thought that the examples of Syria, Iran, Ireland, etc. would have taught us the wisdom of secular government with separation of church and state. Being a Christian religious zealot does not make you any less a zealot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  8. PD Shaw says:

    @Scott: “So businesses now can be said to have religious beliefs.”

    They do in Illinois. Employer-sponsored healthcare insurance is mandatory unless the payor has a religious objection. The employer needs to document the religious objection with evidence in the bylaws or articles of incorporation or other governing documents. I’m guessing Hobby Lobby exempts itself under Illinois law and probably the presence of such a system is evidence that the feds could do the same.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. bill says:

    @al-Ameda: ins. companies were forced by the gov’t. to cover these, i don’t think “getting wood” should be covered by ins. either. just my $.02. the gov’t needs to stay out of our bedrooms.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. bill says:

    i assume a ”sandra fluke” type plant in their company will counter sue now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  11. beth says:

    For a company whose majority of customers, I’m assuming, are women this could backfire on them. It will be interesting to watch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. Anderson says:

    The reprieve gives Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. more time to argue in a lower court that for-profit businesses — not just currently exempted religious groups — should be allowed to seek an exception if the law violates their religious beliefs.

    If that is a “major victory,” I’m not sure what winning their case would actually be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  13. stonetools says:

    Look, I’d like to pretend that the eventual Supreme Court decision will be based purely on legal reasoning, but there are 5 conservative Catholics on the Supreme Court. Do the math.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. SKI says:

    I don’t see how the Courts square this approach with SCOTUS precedent on peyote in Smith. Scalia, writing the majority opinion noted that :

    We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate.

    What am I thinking, the identity of the plaintiff will be enough to change Scalia’s vote…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  15. beth says:

    What if a drug company came up with a drug that cured testicular cancer but left the patient unable to produce sperm? Would Hobby Lobby cover that drug? Would we even be having this conversation? This is not about religious beliefs; it’s always been about controlling women.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 3

  16. Pinky says:

    @stonetools:

    Look, I’d like to pretend that the eventual Supreme Court decision will be based purely on legal reasoning, but there are 5 conservative Catholics on the Supreme Court. Do the math.

    Shame on your and your religious bigotry.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 16

  17. Pinky says:

    @beth:

    What if a drug company came up with a drug that cured testicular cancer but left the patient unable to produce sperm? Would Hobby Lobby cover that drug? Would we even be having this conversation? This is not about religious beliefs; it’s always been about controlling women.

    Every institution I’ve ever heard of, including the Catholic Church, that opposes contraception would still gladly pay for any medical treatment that contracepts as a secondary effect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  18. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    the gov’t needs to stay out of our bedrooms.

    You are endorsing marriage equality?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  19. Sam Malone says:

    Religious freedom to Republicans means being able to force your superstitions, mythical beliefs, and hypocritical dogma onto others.
    So yeah…score one for that…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  20. stonetools says:

    @Pinky:

    Shame on your and your religious bigotry.

    Not bigotry, mate-realism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  21. beth says:

    @Pinky: That’s not been my experience. And tell that to the families of women who die because they can’t get an abortion needed to save their lives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  22. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: Technically, a boner is a natural condition, and the inability to get one is a medical problem. Getting pregnant is not a medical problem that needs to be cured.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 17

  23. stonetools says:

    @Pinky:

    Every institution I’ve ever heard of, including the Catholic Church, that opposes contraception would still gladly pay for any medical treatment that contracepts as a secondary effect.

    If only the Catholic Church would pay for the consequences of employees who couldn’t afford contraception….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  24. Barry says:

    @SKI: Yes, that’d be a problem for Honest Scalia. In this world, no problemo.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  25. anjin-san says:

    the inability to get one is a medical problem.

    At least half of the guys I know over 50 take these meds as a performance enhancer, not because they are impotent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  26. Pinky says:

    @beth:

    That’s not been my experience.

    With contraception? Where? Estrogen and progesterone are sometimes prescribed for reasons other than birth control, and I’ve never heard of an example of that being denied.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  27. Pinky says:

    @anjin-san:

    At least half of the guys I know over 50 take these meds as a performance enhancer, not because they are impotent.

    Yeah, like I said, technically. People shouldn’t be using prescription drugs recreationally, and doctors shouldn’t be prescribing them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  28. Just Me says:

    Just a note on Hobby Lobby.

    They do not object to covering contraceptives but to the mandate to provide morning after pills and abortion inducing drugs like RU486.

    They object to being made party to an abortion by government mandate.

    I am not aware if the other chain store has the same objection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @beth:

    This is not about religious beliefs; it’s always been about controlling women.

    Kind of, although religious conservatives tend to hijack the Bible periodically and reinterpret previous re-interpretations in order to show everyone that religious beliefs compel them, and not any overt desire to control women. Of course they do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  30. PD Shaw says:

    @SKI:” I don’t see how the Courts square this approach with SCOTUS precedent on peyote in Smith.”

    Congress “essentially” overruled Smith by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Some background:

    The Smith decision outraged the public. Many groups came together. Both liberal (like the American Civil Liberties Union) and conservative groups (like the Traditional Values Coalition) as well as other groups such as the Christian Legal Society, the American Jewish Congress, and the National Association of Evangelicals joined forces to support RFRA, which would reinstate the Sherbert Test, overturning laws if they burden a religion. The act, which was Congress’s reaction to the Lyng and Smith cases, passed the House unanimously and the Senate 97 to 3 and was signed into law by U.S. President Bill Clinton.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  31. Jen says:

    would still gladly pay for any medical treatment that contracepts as a secondary effect.

    The primary problem with this logic is that there are many approved medical uses for birth control pills *aside* from its use as a contraceptive agent. From stabilizing hormones to mitigating migraine headaches to an effective treatment for PCOS, the Pill is widely used to treat diseases. But with this ruling, Hobby Lobby is permitted to exclude coverage, leaving those women to, what? Pay out of pocket, sometimes nearing $80-$100 per month, for medication to treat their diseases? (And, please do not start with the “but you can get it for $5 at Walmart”–many women can only tolerate certain formulations (and certain formulations are more effective at managing some of these conditions) so it is not so easy to say just go buy your own generics.)

    I can hardly wait for the onslaught of religious carve-outs for other covered treatments, from Scientologists not covering antidepressants to whatever else is out there. /sarcasm

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  32. mattbernius says:

    @bill:

    ins. companies were forced by the gov’t. to cover [Viagra], i don’t think “getting wood” should be covered by ins. either.

    Ummm… no. That’s a flat out untruth. There is no “Viagra Mandate” presently in place at the Federal level.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  33. Pinky says:

    @Jen: Jen, as I said above, I’ve never heard of a case of a company’s insurance denying a claim for a drug on the grounds that it had a secondary use as a contraceptive. That’d be like an insurance plan which didn’t pay for diet pills saying that they wouldn’t cover chemotherapy, because it has a secondary effect of weight loss. I just have never heard of that. If I’ve missed that, you or Beth are free to give me an example of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  34. Just Me says:

    Once again-hobby lobby covers contraceptives. Their objection is to being required to cover morning after and abortion pills which are also part of the mandate.

    The debate about non BC use of contraceptives doesn’t apply to this case (although it does to Catholic affiliated groups and I assume businesses if one has or does file suit).

    Hobby Lobby does not want to be mandated to pay for abortions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  35. beth says:

    @Pinky: I have anecdotal evidence based on a few women I personally know who weren’t covered for an IUD or sterilization after being told by doctors not to get pregnant again for medical reasons and a relative who worked as a nurse at a Catholic hospital who couldn’t get coverage for birth control to control her heavy periods. It does happen. I’m sure googling could turn up some documented cases for you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  36. anjin-san says:

    @ Pinky

    doctors shouldn’t be prescribing them.

    Why not? Science gave us a drug that has vastly improved the sex lives of countless millions of aging folks (men & women). A good sex life is actually kind of important to one’s well being. If there is a secondary benefit to be gained from a drug beyond its primary one, what is wrong with that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky:

    Every institution I’ve ever heard of, including the Catholic Church, that opposes contraception would still gladly pay for any medical treatment that contracepts as a secondary effect.

    Uhhhh….. You don’t know the Catholic Church do you? As one who fled that blood soaked institution I can assure you, there is nothing they would not deny if it was going to affect their bottom line

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  38. Jen says:

    @Pinky: And how do they know if it’s being used as a primary or secondary agent? Even if you are correct, how many hoops should a woman be required to jump through to “prove” that she’s taking the pill for PCOS vs. birth control?

    @Just Me: Plan B/morning after pills work in the same way as birth control pills, they prevent ovulation. There is no rational reason to be opposed to one and not the other. Further evidence that we need more and better science education in this country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  39. legion says:

    @PD Shaw:

    But as a practical matter, would any publicly-traded company care about a contraception mandate?

    I suppose that depends entirely on how much (or little) influence the shareholders actually have over it. And if the opinions of one or two major holders can be put into policy without it becoming a ‘piercing the veil’ issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky:

    With contraception? Where? Estrogen and progesterone are sometimes prescribed for reasons other than birth control, and I’ve never heard of an example of that being denied.

    Georgetown University. Now you have heard of one. But believe me, it ain’t the only one.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  41. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky:

    I’ve never heard of a case of a company’s insurance denying a claim for a drug on the grounds that it had a secondary use as a contraceptive.

    Ah… I see your hole your trying to weasel into. Sorry. You lose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just Me:

    Their objection is to being required to cover morning after and abortion pills which are also part of the mandate.

    Unsure of what “abortion pills” you might be referring too, but the morning after pill has now been cleared for ‘over the counter’ sales. Does any insurance*** cover OTC drugs? If not, then they have no objections, right?

    ***And I am not being snarky, I really don’t know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  43. Rafer Janders says:

    @Just Me:

    They do not object to covering contraceptives but to the mandate to provide morning after pills and abortion inducing drugs like RU486.

    Hobby Lobby, as far as I can tell, is a publisher, and it does not “provide” morning after pills and RU486. Rather, it provides insurance coverage as part of the compensation package, and its employees can then use their coverage — which is their money, not Hobby Lobby’s — and use that coverage to buy contraceptives.

    Does Hobby Lobby also want to ban its employees from using the dollars in their bank accounts from their Hobby Lobby paychecks to buy condoms with cash? Because that’s the same thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  44. Rafer Janders says:

    @Just Me:

    Hobby Lobby does not want to be mandated to pay for abortions.

    Hobby Lobby is not paying for abortions. It’s paying for the labor of its employees. It’s compensating its employees for their work both in the form of a cash paycheck, and in the form of medical benefits via insurance coverage. All that compensation, whether in the form of cash or benefits, is money that once paid out belongs to the employee, not to Hobby Lobby, and it should be up to the employee to decide how to use it.

    Once again, if I work for Hobby Lobby and get paid, and then take $1000 out of my bank account to pay for an abortion via cash, is Hobby Lobby “paying for an abortion” because that $1000 cash comes from my paycheck? No, and the same applies for insurance coverage, since that is compensation just as much as my paycheck is.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  45. Pinky says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’d gladly concede the point if I were wrong, but I just can’t find anything to support what you’re saying. See this article. As for weaseling, I don’t see how. I’ve been saying the same thing the whole time. Did you misunderstand me? You said that you’re a former Catholic – you’ve read Humanae Vitae? That’s all I’m saying.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  46. Tony W says:

    What if it is counter to my beliefs to comply with minimum wage laws? Or OSHA safety standards. What if my religion forbids safety equipment and counts on “god” to keep us safe?

    This is a slippery slope.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  47. Dave D says:

    I am waiting for the for profit company founded by christian scientists to outright deny health insurance coverage since they just pray away illness. Because to supply someone with access to life saving technology is a violation of their religion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky:

    I’d gladly concede the point if I were wrong,

    Were you under a rock when Sandra Fluke was testifying before Congress?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  49. ru pedals says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Does any insurance*** cover OTC drugs? If not, then they have no objections, right?

    ***And I am not being snarky, I really don’t know.

    If one’s out there that covers them they’re well hidden. It’s a teeny bit nefarious to call it OTC as it infers it’s cheap stuff sitting alongside the chewing gum instead of behind the pharmacy counter or a locked display case. No way is this stuff going to sit out in an unsecured display.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky:

    You said that you’re a former Catholic – you’ve read Humanae Vitae?

    Actually, I never said I was a former Catholic. Let me elaborate: I was raised Catholic. Went to a Catholic School until the 6th grade. I went to public schools after that because as my mother said, “I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what.” What was wrong? Sister Kathleen. I got her in the 5th grade and soon became well acquainted with her yard stick, her pointer, and whatever else she may have been holding when she would blow up. So did everyone else in my class. She quite literally beat the religion right out of me. In the 6th grade, Oh joy of joys! I got her again. By the end of that year, she had beat just about anything that was good and kind and patient out of me. I was a complete asshole who if someone looked at me crosseyed I was ready to rip their head off. So were most of the others in my class. And everyone in that school knew what was going on. My mother finally figured out what was wrong the year after I left when Sister Kathleen hit a girl in the face, without first putting down the keys she was holding. Took over a hundred stitches to put that child’s face back together again. What did the Church do? Sent her to Columbia where I am sure she began beating little brown children.

    Do they cover daily beatings in the Humanae Vitae? No? I didn’t think so.

    To clarify, there are a lot of good people in the Catholic Church, priests, nuns, and lay people. But the Catholic Church is utterly corrupt, long past redemption, and I have nothing but loathing for it. It is long past it’s ‘Sell By’ date and should go the way of the dodo. Even now, 42 years after I got out of that school my anger is unabated and the violence is imprinted deep on my soul. I have to fight that violence every day and somehow I am successful every day. I wish I could be sure that I always will be, but I can’t.

    That is what the Catholic Church did for me. And way too many others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    One more thing Pinky: I won’t have a morally bankrupt church deciding how other people should behave. They don’t like providing suitable insurance for their employees (doctors, nurses, janitors teachers etc)? They can get the hell out of the business. Tough sh!t.

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  52. Pinky says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Were you under a rock when Sandra Fluke was testifying before Congress?

    No, I wasn’t. She testified that the school’s insurance covers exactly what I’m talking about. She also testified that the company tries to wriggle out of payments for them. I imagine that that holds true for everything else they cover.

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  53. Pinky says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: That’s a tragic story. It gives you good reason to be angry. It doesn’t give you a reason to falsely represent the Church’s teachings or practices on a thread about the contraception coverage mandate.

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  54. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @ru pedals:

    It’s a teeny bit nefarious to call it OTC as it infers it’s cheap stuff sitting alongside the chewing gum instead of behind the pharmacy counter or a locked display case.

    I am not saying cheap but I think if a 15 yr old can afford to buy it we can infer that the cost is within reason. ($15-20?) But maybe I am not being cynical enough here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  55. Jenos Idanian says:

    I’m still trying to grasp just how something can simultaneously be intensely personal and private and nobody else’s business and someone else’s responsibility to pay for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

  56. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky:

    It doesn’t give you a reason to falsely represent the Church’s teachings or practices on a thread about the contraception coverage mandate.

    I know far too much about the Church’s teachings and practices, more than you ever will if you are lucky, and I have EVERY G*DDAMN RIGHT to represent the truth of those teachings and practices. Especially against the lies spread by their lackeys. The fact that you can’t tell the difference means you are either one of their lackeys or an idiot. I really don’t care which.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  57. wr says:

    @Just Me: “Hobby Lobby does not want to be mandated to pay for abortions. ”

    Right. So what happens if a Hobby Lobby, unable to get coverage, uses the money HL pays her in salary to buy the same pills or even have an abortion?

    How is that any different than the company paying for an insurance plan that covers these things?

    Unless you’re willing to claim that an employer has a right to determine how the employee spends her paycheck, then this is nothing but a bunch of budybodies trying to force their own religious obsessions on people who don’t share them.

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  58. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I’m still trying to grasp just how something can simultaneously be intensely personal and private and nobody else’s business and someone else’s responsibility to pay for it.

    Let me guess… You bought the exclusive No Claim Policy ™, didn’t you?

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  59. Pinky says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Then represent the truth.

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  60. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    I’m still trying to grasp just how something can simultaneously be intensely personal and private and nobody else’s business and someone else’s responsibility to pay for it.

    Let me explain it, I will use simple words.

    1. All of every individuals health care information and decisions are personal and private.

    2. Health insurance linked to employment is compensation, not a gift. No one else is paying for it, it is earned.

    3. This is probably still too much for you to grasp.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  61. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I’m still trying to grasp just how something can simultaneously be intensely personal and private and nobody else’s business and someone else’s responsibility to pay for it.

    Excuse me but, isn’t the medical condition of any person “intensely personal and private”?

    By your comments why would there be group health insurance plans designed to cover a wide range of medical conditions? After all, every policy holder would be paying for some kind of medical condition that they might object to.

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  62. Sam Malone says:

    I’m quite sure Jesus would deny health care to women.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  63. Sam Malone says:

    Interesting conundrum…
    Estrogen and progesterone are prescribed for specific conditions, and can also be used as contraception. So Republicans want to deny womens access to them because the destruction af a single celled organism is tragic.
    Guns have many uses, and can also be used to kill fully developed, living, breathing, conscious people. Republicans refuse to limit access to guns in any way.
    These are not intellectually consistent positions.
    Of course, Republican and intellect are mutually exclusive terms.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  64. Pinky says:

    @Sam Malone:

    So Republicans want to deny womens access to them because the destruction af a single celled organism is tragic.

    See my comments above.

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  65. legion says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I’m still trying to grasp just how something can simultaneously be intensely personal and private and nobody else’s business and someone else’s responsibility to pay for it.

    @anjin-san Takes your willfully ignorant trolling apart quite handily, Jenos, but I’ll add another import factor – if my employer provides health insurance as part of my compensation, they have no right to know what I use it for – let alone dictate what I use it for. Imagine if your boss said he’d pay you, but that you can’t use the money to buy alcohol or carbonated drinks because he’s Mormon. Would that be acceptable to you?

    Spoiler alert: you’re going to say “yes, because it’s my choice to work for him” And you’re going to be wrong again, because there are legal limits to what an employer can require of an employee. Try skipping ahead a few chapters in your dogeared Ayn Rand Omnibus.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  66. Jenos Idanian says:

    I was referring to public funds… or, in this case, government-mandated payment.

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  67. rudderpedals says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: You’re good. It is within reach. I’m sorry I went off on the OTC thing.

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  68. rudderpedals says:

    @beth:

    For a company whose majority of customers, I’m assuming, are women this could backfire on them.

    My wife does a lot of shopping at JoAnn fabrics to support her embroidery addiction. She was shocked when I told her Hobby Lobby was litigating against the ACA for religious reasons and promised never to go there. But they opened the preeeeecioussss up and that vow went out the window

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  69. Anderson says:

    This Wonkblog item is just astonishing. Here’s how Hobby Lobby would “cover” contraceptives:

    Some large companies “self-insure,” meaning they cover the entire cost of their health care costs and sometimes use a third-party administrator, rather than a traditional health plan, to administer medical spending.
    Third-party administrators (TPAs) don’t cover benefits, like contraceptives. So if an objecting employer comes to them, the TPA then has to find a health insurance plan to provide those benefits. Under this policy, insurers have the “opportunity to get full reimbursement for all costs of these benefits,” Michael Hash, director of the Office for Health Reform at HHS, says. “There will be full coverage for administrative costs, and a margin, so it’s a sound business opportunity.”

    If I’m reading this right – please correct me if I’m not – then the employer is not “paying for contraceptives” in any sense of the word.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  70. stonetools says:

    Getting back to the issue at hand, I’m really uncomfortable with this:

    This position is fundamentally flawed because it advances an understanding of “substantial burden” that presumes “substantial” requires an inquiry into the theological merit of the belief in question rather than the intensity of the coercion applied by the government to act contrary to those beliefs

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are against blood transfusions. Can an employer who is a Jehovah’s Witness say , “I forbid my employees from purchasing health insurance for procedures that involve blood transfusions. To force me to offer such insurance would be a violation of my First Amendment rights .” Everyone here would reject that, instantly.
    I think the court will be overruled here. There’s going to have to be some inquiry into theological beliefs.
    I think the High Court is going to end up with some kind of balancing test in which the interests of the employees in getting health insurance is balanced against the employer’s First Amendment rights. I’m betting Roberts upholds the mandate, writing a 5-4 decision.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  71. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky:

    Then represent the truth.

    Oh…. You work for a diocese, don’t you? The Catholic Church has a rather slippery grasp of the “truth”. I have represented the truth. You lie every time you put finger to keyboard…. let me guess… You’re a Monsignor, aren’t you? You report to an Archbishop don’t you?

    If there is any justice in the universe, you are bound for the hell you imagine is out there waiting to swallow up all sinners. Unfortunately, it is not. Jesus is dead. He is not coming back. You will die, just like the rest of us. And never rise again.

    I usually refrain from saying this to the religious amongst us (respect for others stupid idiotic belief’s and all that) but, you are going to die. No, God is not going to raise you from the dead, rather you will lay in your grave and molder and putrefy until the worms eat you up and then you will be no more. Jesus is not coming back. Neither are you.

    Oblivion awaits you. Are you ready for it? Don’t matter….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  72. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @rudderpedals: No problemo…. I have been known to make a mistake or 2 in the past.

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  73. Pinky says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: What am I supposed to do now, cry and slink away? This isn’t my first internet chat; I’m fully aware that some people don’t agree with me.

    You’ve demonstrated in a couple of different ways that you’re motivated by an understandable but blinding anger, and that you’re not interested in an accurate portrayal of the Catholic position. But your anger doesn’t make your position true. If we all died at this moment, and there were no afterlife, it would still be true that the Catholic Church has no objection to the prescription of female hormones for non-contraceptive purposes. It’s certainly not the most interesting thing about the Church – we can both agree on that – but it’s true. Kindly stop saying otherwise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  74. anjin-san says:

    @ Pinky

    This isn’t my first internet chat

    Clearly, you have prior experience avoiding information that does not support your existing bias…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  75. Dean says:

    Seems to me the problem is the law that requires people to work at Hobby Lobby, because I thought if you didn’t like your company’s benefits you could quit. After reading these comments, that must not be the case.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

  76. steve says:

    Technically, a boner impotence in old guys is a natural condition, and the inability to get one is a medical problem normal.

    FTFY!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  77. bill says:

    @Caj: christsakes, a pack of rubbers is what $3? the gov’t has to be tossed out of the bedroom, and everything that happens in there. you invite them in and they regulate what happens there- get a clue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  78. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    Seriously – think before you speak. The government is not “in the bedroom.” They are trying to give people tools to deal with the aftermath of sex, which can have lifelong consequences. They are also telling employers that they cannot make health care decisions for their employees. No one has, in any of this, told people what they can and can’t do in the bedroom.

    Thats not to say that religious fanatics are not working on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  79. jukeboxgrad says:

    “Sincerely religious persons could find a connection between the exercise of religion and the pursuit of profit,” the judges wrote.

    No one is forcing “sincerely religious” employers to violate their beliefs. No one is forcing you to hire a birth control user. If a religious institution (or a “sincerely religious” employer) thinks that it’s immoral to fund BC use, then it can and should refrain from hiring BC users. This is a simple solution to the problem they are whining about.

    These institutions are perfectly content to hire BC users, even though they are then paying salaries which effectively fund BC use (and there is no moral distinction between funding BC use via salary as compared with via an employee benefit; they are both forms of compensation). They already have this moral problem, which they are making no effort to address. Here’s the most parsimonious explanation: they don’t care that much, and they are not as “sincerely religious” as they are pretending to be. Which means that no one else should take their complaint seriously.

    And yes, it is possible to implement such a policy (that is, to refrain from hiring BC users) without violating laws against discrimination. The law prohibits gender discrimination. If I require male employees to refrain from BC use, and if I am willing to hire women who refrain from BC use, then I am not practicing gender discrimination.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  80. Caj says:

    Freedom of religion! What about the freedom of women to choose? Religion tops women of course in the minds of those obsessed with religion. Freedom apparently is only alright when it suits an agenda with those on the religious right! We all remember Sarah Palin during her hey day on the campaign trail, using abstinence as a solution. No matter her pregnant young daughter was right by her side as her mother spouted forth her usual claptrap. Young people have sex that’s a fact. Prevention is far better than cure. If some have strong religious beliefs then don’t use contraception, that’s their choice. The majority in anything far outweighs the minority. In this case the majority are in favour of contraception in whatever form it takes. Time to join the 21st century and stop living in the stone age!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  81. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    Pinky has lost the argument today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  82. Got it all wrong, of course. Religious freedom means telling your Christian boss to get over himself.

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  83. bill says:

    @anjin-san: um, the abortion crowd uses that term for everything- think about it.

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  84. Pinky says:

    @James in Silverdale, WA:

    Pinky has lost the argument today.

    I know. And it’s that much more frustrating because everything I said was correct. This, from Sandra Fluke’s congressional testimony: “A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome, and she has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown’s insurance because it’s not intended to prevent pregnancy.” Exactly what I said, and exactly what others have denied. Of course, she goes on to say that it’s tough to get the insurance company to pay for it, which tells me that Georgetown Law is turning out people who aren’t competent enough to challenge an insurance company. Oh, well.

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  85. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky: No, just die. Please. Soon.

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  86. beth says:

    @Pinky: Nice try Pinky but please go down a bit in her testimony and read the rest :

    ” For my friend, and 20 percent of the women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription. Despite verification of her illness from her doctor, her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted birth control to prevent pregnancy. She’s gay — so clearly, polycystic ovarian syndrome was a much more urgent concern than accidental pregnancy for her.”

    Women shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get access to medication prescribed by their doctors. This woman Fluke talks about wound up having surgery due to not having the medication and suffered greatly from the complications from that surgery. Please don’t come here and lecture about Catholic doctrine when many of us women have either lived through it ourselves or have friends and relatives that have been harmed by it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  87. anjin-san says:

    Women shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get access to medication prescribed by their doctors.

    This…

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  88. Pinky says:

    @beth: That’s what I said, specifically, twice. Have any of you dealt with an insurance company before? They’re really not big on making payments.

    Fluke did a good job of confusing the issue – clearly something she set out to do. She was giving testimony about how she wants women to have access to free birth control, and her examples were primarily about women’s access to birth control for non-birth control purposes. IIRC, the only other example she gave was a married woman who was using it for contraceptive purposes. She put the best face she could on the issue. It makes sense for her to do so, but there’s no reason that I or anyone who opposes the contraception mandate should let her set the terms of debate.

    Now, if you want to have a debate about people having to jump through hoops in dealing with their insurers, that seems fair. But that’s not a debate about the contraception mandate.

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  89. anjin-san says:

    Have any of you dealt with an insurance company before? They’re really not big on making payments.

    I’m 54. Over the years, I have had exactly one fight with a health insurance company about paying for something I felt I was entitled to that got denied.

    It’s more than a little dishonest to try and frame the Fluke affair as “insurance companies being insurance companies.”

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  90. beth says:

    I’m done talking to you Pinky. If you can actually consider yourself a Christian and still defend an insurance company process that repeatedly denies needed medication to a woman in pain then there’s no hope for you. Good luck.

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  91. bill says:

    @mattbernius: states do it, the fed rarely needs to get involved.

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