In Hobby Lobby case, victory for religious liberty cheered in comments from Oklahoma and national leaders

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahomans rallied behind its first family of arts and crafts and Monday’s Supreme Court decision giving Hobby Lobby the right to refuse to pay for contraceptives under its health insurance coverage. The Court upheld Hobby Lobby’s decision (citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) to withhold coverage of four types of contraceptives, those the company objected to for reasons of faith.

Constitutional scholars are today debating the impact of the 5-4 decision in “Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.” on the last day of the 2013-14 term.

But here in the city where Hobby Lobby has its headquarters, the decision is seen in many quarters as a dramatic victory for religious freedom and a blow to Obamacare.

David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby, and his family have for nearly four years fought the Affordable Care Act requirement that the company insurance pay for birth control on religious grounds.

Oklahoma denominational leaders said the inclusion of abortion-causing drugs in “birth control” violated the rights of businesses like Hobby Lobby, religious institutions affiliated with the Catholic Church and others. Hobby Lobby objected to providing coverage of four means of contraception considered “abortefacient” by pro-life analysts, but called “emergency contraception” by pro-choice advocates. Some religious organizations have broader objections to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

“Hobby Lobby and the Green Family represent the very best of Christian-owned businesses,” Anthony Jordan, executive director and treasurer for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said in a prepared statement. “Their courage to stand for life and religious liberty has been rewarded, for which we rejoice.”

“The Court’s opinion affirmed that the President cannot tell individuals with sincere religious beliefs they can only practice their faith in the privacy of their home but not in other areas of their life,” U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, Republican nominee for Senate, said Monday in a press release.

“The decision also demonstrates that the Court is prepared to rein in abuse of administrative authority by the executive branch,” Andrew Spiropoulos, director of state constitutional studies at Oklahoma City University, told Oklahoma Watchdog on Monday. “The Court’s vigilance may complicate the Obama Administration’s professed plan to use agency regulations to force through its policy agenda.”

State Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, co-chair of the bipartisan Legislative Prayer Caucus, told Oklahoma Watchdog, “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court upholds one of the time honored principles upon which this nation was founded.

“Namely, that of freedom of conscience which founders such as James Madison adhered to when he said, ‘religion, or the duty we owe to our Creator, and manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force it violence, and, therefore, that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the magistrate.’ …”

State Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whose office defended Hobby Lobby’s stand and who joined other state attorneys general in briefs on the case, told Oklahoma Watchdog the decision was “quite remarkable.”

“The Court recognized a right to free exercise as well as a right to worship,” Pruitt told Oklahoma Watchdog. “This decision affirms the importance of the First Amendment. I join others in saluting Hobby Lobby for taking this all the way to the Supreme Court.”

“I am humbled to have supported the Green family throughout this arduous process,” Pruitt said in a prepared statement, “and congratulate them on today’s victory.”

In his prepared comments,Timothy Tardibono, president of the Family Policy Institute of Oklahoma, said, “This is the kind of business that should be encouraged to grow, not stifled by government coercion.”

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, said in a prepared statement, “ObamaCare’s mandate that employers provide abortion inducing drugs to employees violated the conscience of the Greens. Instead of succumbing to enormous financial penalties for failing to comply, the Green family stood strong in their faith and successfully fought against the intrusions of the federal government and preserved their right to religious freedom.”

Also praising the ruling was John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a national organization involved in important litigation in Oklahoma. In comments on his group’s website, he described Monday’s ruling as “providing a silver lining to the recent run of decisions granting corporations rights.” Whitehead said the close decision means the High Court has “finally recognized that small business owners also engage in sincere religious practices.”

The Rutherford Institute is a national civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“This is a landmark decision for religious freedom.  The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby.

“This ruling will protect people of all faiths. The Court’s reasoning was clear, and it should have been clear to the government. You can’t argue there are no alternative means when your agency is busy creating alternative means for other people.”

“The handwriting is on the wall,” said Windham in the Becket Funds national release. “The Court has strongly signaled that the mandate is in trouble in the non-profit cases, too.”

“Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision. Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles,” said Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby in her lawyer’s release. “The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey.”

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