The chief counsel representing the family that owns the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Missouri, Josh Hawley.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of that family, the David Green Family of Oklahoma City, who argued that Hobby Lobby should not have to provide insurance coverage for four types of birth control to its employees. The family says having to provide coverage for those four types of contraceptives would violate their religious objection to abortion.
“I would say that this is a decision about religious liberty and personal freedom,” says Hale, “and it comes down to, ‘Can Americans form their own their own religious and moral convictions without the government interfering, and can Americans practice those convictions in the workplace and everywhere?’ and the answer to that question is yes they can.”
Hawley says the ruling makes clear that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to the owners of family owned corporations. He thinks it’s not likely that other types of corporations would seek such a ruling.
“The majority (of the Court) said, and I think they’re right, that it’s implausible that a large, publicly traded corporation would bring one of these suits just because you’d have to get buy-in from lots and lots of shareholders and conglomerates who hold shares.”
Critics argue that the ruling allows the owners of such a corporation to interfere in the personal health decisions of its female employees. Hawley says the case was never about access to contraception.
“Access to all forms of contraception remains one hundred percent legal, one hundred percent available,” says Hawley. “What the Court emphasized over and over again in its opinion today is that there are other means, the government has other means to deliver or make available these four disputed forms of contraception to the female employees who want it at no cost to the female employees … there just isn’t any burden here on female employees.”
One of the findings of the Court was that the fines the Green family had faced for not providing the coverage in question were to have been particularly steep, “which is one of the reasons why, the Supreme Court said, that the government had indeed substantially burdened the Greens’ faith,” says Hawley.
“The Greens were facing $475-million in fines every year if they failed to comply with this contraceptive mandate, so that was a very substantial burden, indeed,” Hawley says. “That is one of the reasons, again, that the Court said you just cannot impose those kinds of burdens on people of faith unless you can show, ‘you’ being the government, that you have a very compelling interest, and the government couldn’t show that.”
AUDIO: Hear the full interview with Josh Hawley, 10:06