Free Exercise of Religion

Background Information
If government seeks to restrict the free exercise of religion, it must have a compelling interest to do so. The government’s restriction must be narrowly tailored to achieve the government’s compelling interest. As you will read about in the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court closely examined a governmental mandate to determine whether it violated the free exercise of religion.
Instructions
1. Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
2. Download and read the file Hobby Lobby Case.docx.
3.Watch the video at 28:28: Business Law I: Lecture 2, Chapter 4

4.Also read “The Supreme Court Applies the First Amendment to Some, but Not to Others

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5. Respond to the prompts that follow. Each response should be 50 to 75 words.
a. Please provide a summary of the facts of this case. Your summary should include what the Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel companies objected to as part of their religion. Your summary should also include how the federal government became a party to this case.
b. What statutory law passed by Congress was at issue in this case?
c. Which Constitutional law principle(s) were at issue here, and what test did the Supreme Court apply? (Rational Basis Scrutiny?)
d. How many contraceptives does the federal government require an employer health insurance plan to provide, and did Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel have company policies forbidding employees from using the four contraceptives at issue? Did the companies object to providing any form of contraceptives to their employees?
e. What was the Supreme Courts holding in this case? What if a business owner studied scientific journals and came to the belief that a baby’s life begins at conception, or shortly thereafter, and then objected to the provision of the four contraceptives in this case? Would they have a Constitutional argument they could make in order to protect their conscience if they were an atheist and did not recognize any form of religion?
6. Follow APA formatting, including use of 12-point Times New Roman font. Correct use of citations and references is required.
7. Refer to OCLS APA Writing Styles Guides for questions.
8. When you have completed your assignment, save a copy for yourself and submit a copy to your instructor by the end of the workshop.

BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL. v. HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC.,

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the “Government [from] substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless the Government “demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” 42 U. S. C. §§2000bb–1(a), (b). As amended by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), RFRA covers “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” §2000cc–5(7)(A).
At issue here are regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), which, as relevant here, requires specified employers’ group health plans to furnish “preventive care and screenings” for women without “any cost sharing requirements,”42 U. S. C. §300gg–13(a)(4). Congress did not specify what types of preventive care must be covered; it authorized the Health Resources and Services Administration, a component of HHS, to decide. Nonexempt employers are generally required to provide coverage for the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including the 4 that may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus. Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from this contraceptive mandate. HHS has also effectively exempted religious nonprofit organizations with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services. Under this accommodation, the insurance issuer must exclude contraceptive coverage from the employer’s plan and provide plan participants with separate payments for contraceptive services without imposing any cost¬ sharing requirements on the employer, its insurance plan, or its employee beneficiaries.
In these cases, the owners of three closely held for-profit corporations have sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point. In separate actions, they sued HHS and other federal officials and agencies (collectively HHS) under RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause, seeking to enjoin application of the contraceptive mandate insofar as it requires them to provide health coverage for the four objectionable contraceptives.
As applied to closely held corporations, the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA.
(a) RFRA applies to regulations that govern the activities of closely held for-profit corporations like Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel.
(1) HHS argues that the companies cannot sue because they are for-profit corporations, and that the owners cannot sue because the regulations apply only to the companies, but that would leave merchants with a difficult choice: give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits of operating as corporations. RFRA’s text shows that Congress designed the statute to provide very broad protection for religious liberty and did not intend to put merchants to such a choice. It employed the familiar legal fiction of including corporations within RFRA’s definition of “persons,” but the purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporation, including shareholders, officers, and employees. Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.
(2) HHS and the dissent make several unpersuasive arguments..
(i) Nothing in RFRA suggests a congressional intent to depart from the Dictionary Act definition of “person,” which “include[s] corporations, . . . as well as individuals.” 1 U. S. C. §1. The Court has entertained RFRA and free-exercise claims brought by nonprofit corporations. See, e.g., Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficiente União do Vegetal, 546 U. S. 418. And HHS’s concession that a nonprofit corporation can be a “person” under RFRA effectively dispatches any argument that the term does not reach for-profit corporations; no conceivable definition of “person” includes natural persons and nonprofit corporations, but not for-profit corporations.
(ii) HHS and the dissent nonetheless argue that RFRA does not cover Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel because they cannot “exercise . . . religion.” They offer no persuasive explanation for this conclusion. The corporate form alone cannot explain it because RFRA indisputably protects nonprofit corporations. And the profitmaking objective of the corporations cannot explain it because the Court has entertained the free-exercise claims of individuals who were attempting to make a profit as retail merchants. Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U. S. 599. Business practices compelled or limited by the tenets of a religious doctrine fall comfortably within the understanding of the “exercise of religion” that this Court set out in Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U. S. 872, 877. Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law. States, including those in which the plaintiff corporations were incorporated, authorize corporations to pursue any lawful purpose or business, including the pursuit of profit in conformity with the owners’ religious principles.

***
(3) Finally, HHS contends that Congress could not have wanted RFRA to apply to for-profit corporations because of the difficulty of ascertaining the “beliefs” of large, publicly traded corporations, but HHS has not pointed to any example of a publicly traded corporation asserting RFRA rights, and numerous practical restraints would likely prevent that from occurring. HHS has also provided no evidence that the purported problem of determining the sincerity of an asserted religious belief moved Congress to exclude for-profit corporations from RFRA’s protection. That disputes among the owners of corporations might arise is not a problem unique to this context. State corporate law provides a ready means for resolving any conflicts by, for example, dictating how a corporation can establish its governing structure. Courts will turn to that structure and the underlying state law in resolving disputes..
(b) HHS’s contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion.
(1) It requires the Hahns and Greens to engage in conduct that seriously violates their sincere religious belief that life begins at conception. If they and their companies refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, they face severe economic consequences: about $475 million per year for Hobby Lobby, $33 million per year for Conestoga, and $15 million per year for Mardel. And if they drop coverage altogether, they could face penalties of roughly $26 million for Hobby Lobby,$1.8 million for Conestoga, and $800,000 for Mardel.
***
(3) HHS argues that the connection between what the objecting parties must do and the end that they find to be morally wrong is too attenuated because it is the employee who will choose the coverage and contraceptive method she uses. But RFRA’s question is whether the mandate imposes a substantial burden on the objecting parties’ ability to conduct business in accordance with their religious beliefs. The belief of the Hahns and Greens implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is immoral for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facilitating the commission of an immoral act by another. It is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs are mistaken or unreasonable. In fact, this Court considered and rejected a nearly identical argument in Thomas v. Review Bd. of Indiana Employment Security Div., 450 U. S. 707. The Court’s “narrow function . . . is to determine” whether the plaintiffs’ asserted religious belief reflects“ an honest conviction,” id., at 716, and there is no dispute here that it does. Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U. S. 672, 689; and Board of Ed. of Central School Dist. No. 1 v. Allen, 392 U. S. 236, 248–249, distinguished.
(c) The Court assumes that the interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods is a compelling governmental interest, but the Government has failed to show that the contraceptive mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
(1) The Court assumes that the interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods is compelling within the meaning of RFRA.
(2) The Government has failed to satisfy RFRA’s least ¬restrictive-means standard. HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. The Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to non-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. That accommodation does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion and it still serves HHS’s stated interests.

Questions:

1) Please provide a summary of the facts of this case. Your summary should include what the Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel companies objected to as part of their religion. Your summary should also include how the federal government became a party to this case.
2) What statutory law passed by Congress was at issue in this case?
3) Which Constitutional law principle(s) were at issue here and what test did the Supreme Court apply? (rational basis scrutiny?)
4) How many contraceptives does the federal government require an employer health insurance plan provide and did the Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel have a company policy forbidding employees from using the four contraceptives at issue? Did the companies object to providing any form of contraceptives to their employees?
5) What was the Supreme Courts holding in this case?
6) What if a business owner studied scientific journals and came to the belief that a baby’s life begins at conception, or shortly thereafter, and then objected to the provision of the four contraceptives in this case? Would they have a Constitutional argument they could make in order to protect their conscience if they were an atheist and did not recognize any form of religion? For more information on Free Exercise of Religion visit this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion

Free Exercise of Religion

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