Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the Fight for the 1st Amendment



The Administration’s HHS mandate represents an unprecedented overreach that allows the government, if they win, to tell people their religious convictions mean nothing if the government says they mean nothing. The government wants to force people to violate their religious beliefs just to run a business. The case has more far-reaching implications than that as well because the government’s case says that First Amendment rights do NOT extend to corporations unless they are non-profit. News organizations could lose their First Amendment rights under this type of sweeping overreach.

More than 84 cases contesting the HHS mandate are working their way through the court system. Two are now before the Supreme Court of the United States. The cases are primarily about freedom of religion, but they are also about our First Amendment rights in general.

Two Supreme Court cases contesting the Obamacare HHS mandate will be heard by the end of the term of the Supreme Court in June 2014.  They will decide if a private business under religious owners can be ordered by the government to violate their religious beliefs.

The HHS mandate requires all private businesses to provide their employees with birth control, abortifacients and surgical sterilizations. The organizations and companies suing feel this violates their religious beliefs. These upcoming cases deal with whether or not business owners have First Amendment protections that carry over to their businesses.

The first case is Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts store owned by Evangelical Christians, the Green family. Their business evolves around their religion and they don’t open on Sunday for that reason. The Greens’ case focuses on the protections afforded by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993.

It is not clear if a business – a corporation – can have religious beliefs since the court has never ruled on the issue. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act specifies that the government cannot impose a “substantial burden on a person’s exercise of religion,” unless the government can prove that the burden serves “a compelling governmental interest” and that it is also “the least restrictive means” of doing that.

Hobby Lobby won their case in the 10th US Court of Appeals who returned the case to the Oklahoma court, who then ordered Hobby Lobby to provide access to the drugs in question. They appealed to the Supreme Court and their case will be heard. The Greens believe that every business owner should be allowed to conduct their business according to their beliefs.

The judges, who ruled unanimously to send it back to the lower courts in Oklahoma, said that Hobby Lobby can not only move ahead with their case but they probably can win.

“A religious individual may enter the for-profit realm intending to demonstrate to the marketplace that a corporation can succeed financially while adhering to religious values. As a court, we do not see how we can distinguish this form of evangelism from any other,” they wrote.

One judge wrote in a concurring opinion.

“No one suggests that organizations, in contrast to their members, have souls,” Judge Harris Hartz wrote. “But it does not follow that people must sacrifice their souls to engage in group activities through an organization.”

The second case involves the Hahn family, Mennonites, who own a cabinet-making business – Conestaga Wood Specialties. They lost their case at the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Their case is slightly different. It focuses on the RFRA but also on First Amendment rights. The company’s owners believe the government has gone too far. They are taking this issue up, not only for themselves, but for every one of us.

They want to know how government can tell a business owner that s/he can have no religious convictions? If the government can force the Hahns to violate their beliefs to carry out their livelihood, where will it stop?

Did you ever think we would have to defend our moral values in court, ask the Hahns?

Listen to this brief clip about the Hahn case:

via healthcare lawsuits

The government says a business is not capable of exercising religious rights. There is also the “pass through” theory that states the owners’ religious views passing through to the corporation they have created.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are not religious organizations but the HHS mandate also affects religious institutions.

The government is ordering the monks at Belmont Abbey and the Jesuits at Notre Dame to provide these services even though they are religious organizations. In their cases, the government is saying they are not religious organizations, in other words, they are saying the government will now decide which organizations are religious and which ones are not.

How could these cases affect the First Amendment rights of others?

The government states that a business cannot have religious beliefs. Furthermore, the government claims that for-profit corporations have no First Amendment rights. Only individuals and non-profits do. The Washington Times brings up the far-reaching consequence of this. A news organization would not have First Amendment rights though individual reporters would, which would be of little use to a corporation without a First Amendment.

The far-left organizations are predominately non-profits and they would keep their First Amendment rights.

It’s similar to the Citizens United case where the left railed against corporations having First Amendment rights but have no objection to unions spending $200 million in one year to sway the presidential election in their favor.

Another issue is the fact that the government is now telling religious people they must violate their rights of conscience, a right that has never been contested in this country before now.

The case will come before Justice Roberts who found the individual mandate and its no-tax tax is constitutional. He in essence said the government can tax citizens as much as it wants and force them to buy whatever it says to buy.

However, he also found for the plaintiffs in the Hosanna-Tabor case. In that case, a teacher in a Lutheran school was fired and the government tried to interfere and demand she be rehired. The court found the administration’s arguments were ‘extreme’ and ‘untenable.’ The court decided that the federal equal opportunity laws do not apply to religious organizations as well as religious leaders.

It’s ironic that Mr. Obama chose this fight. Catholics are big supporters of universal healthcare but he has picked this fight with them among others. The HHS mandate will shut down Catholic universities, hospitals, charities but all that matters is the power of the government which the government is selling as a threat to women’s reproductive rights. There is no such threat.

That is because it is about the government being the final decision maker on all healthcare matters. Does the government want to also be the final decision maker on First Amendment rights for all corporations?

If you google Hobby Lobby, you will find pages of far-left Soros sites calling it a dangerous precedent if they win. It will actually be a dangerous precedent if they lose. We will all lose. It’s a Trojan horse.

More information at Washington Times and Huff Po for two points of view.




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