Americans United Urges U.S. Supreme Court To Protect Workers’ Access To Birth Control

Nov 26, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court should find that the owners of secular, for-profit corporations have no right to impose their religious views onto employees by denying them access to contraceptives, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.

Americans United urges this action in response to today’s announcement that the Supreme Court will consider the cases of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. The cases challenge the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which requires most businesses to provide their employees with health insurance that includes access to no-cost birth control.

“The Supreme Court needs to make it clear that religious freedom is not a battering ram to use against individual rights,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

Added Lynn, “The question before the court is simple: Does the owner of a secular corporation have the right to impose his religious views onto his employees? And the answer is equally simple: No.”

The cases were brought by the owners of Hobby Lobby, a nationwide chain of craft stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., which manufactures products for home construction. The owners of both companies cite their religious beliefs in saying they do not want their employees to receive insurance coverage for certain types of birth control.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), legislation passed in 1993, in their defense. But Lynn says that measure was intended to protect individual religious freedom and church autonomy, not create new rights for profit-making corporations.

“RFRA was never intended to conjure up a sweeping ‘corporate conscience’ right that allows for-profit firms to restrict the rights of third parties,” Lynn said.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Hobby Lobby, but the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Conestoga, creating a split in the lower courts.

Americans United has filed briefs in both of these cases, urging the courts to reject the religious freedom argument and uphold the ACA’s contraceptive mandate.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.