Think Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling was just about birth control? Think again!

— Anthony Romero, ACLU Action team

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Immediately after the Hobby Lobby ruling, Rick Warren and other high-profile religious leaders began lobbying the Obama administration. Their demand? A religious exemption from his executive order which would ban federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is not about freedom of religion—it’s about corporations using religion as a license to discriminate with taxpayer dollars.

This executive order is the next battleground between those clamoring for exemptions and those, like us, who believe that religious liberty shouldn’t be an excuse to impose your beliefs on others. While we can’t change the Supreme Court’s ruling, we can call on Obama to resist the pressure from the religious right.

Urge Obama to protect LGBT workers. Let him know we don’t support giving federal contractors the legal right to discriminate.

The Court’s decision created the potential for far-reaching, discriminatory ramifications. In their ruling, they set a dangerous precedent, sanctioning discrimination against women under the guise of religious liberty. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it best: “the court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Just yesterday, the ACLU withdrew support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because of a loophole that would grant religiously affiliated organizations free rein to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people–the very thing ENDA is intended to prevent.

There is a clear line connecting the Court’s ruling about contraception and the hiring and firing of LGBT employees. That line is allowing bosses to use their personal religious beliefs to discriminate against their employees.

If tens of thousands of us speak out against this today, we can help Obama resist the mounting pressure from religious groups seeking the right to discriminate.

Tell Obama not to water down his landmark anti-discrimination executive order by including religious exemption.

Our bosses’ beliefs shouldn’t impact our rights as an employee. Let’s stop this before the floodgates open. Sign our petition today.

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Corporate Rights Trump Women’s Health in Hobby Lobby Ruling

‘This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination.’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer at Common Dreams

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Defenders of women’s health and reproductive freedom are reacting with anger to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday which ruled that an employer with religious objection can opt out of providing contraception coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.

Writing for the majority side of the 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the “the HHS mandate demands that they engage in conduct that seriously violates [employers’] religious beliefs.”

Rights advocates were quick to condemn the court’s decision.

“Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights. This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Allowing bosses this much control over the health-care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end,” Hogue continued. “Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees’ bedrooms. The majority claims that its ruling is limited, but that logic doesn’t hold up. Today it’s birth control; tomorrow it could be any personal medical decision, from starting a family to getting life-saving vaccinations or blood transfusions.”

Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women in the U.S. use birth control for a variety of health reasons, according to research by women’s health organizations.

“The fact of the matter is that birth control is a wildly popular and medically necessary part of women’s health care,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy organization.Chaudhary adds that despite it’s clear necessity for the reproductive health of the majority of women, one in three women have struggled at some point to afford birth control.

Monday’s ruling focuses specifically on companies that are “closely-held,” which analysts report covers over 90 percent of businesses in the United States.

The dissenting opinion, penned by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and supported by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and mostly joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, acknowledges that the decision was of “startling breadth” and said that it allows companies to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The opinion was based largely on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that a law that burdens a person’s religious beliefs must be justified by a compelling government interest.

“There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts ‘out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,'” Ginsburg adds, concluding: “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Echoing Ginsburg’s concern, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the ruling “a double-edged disaster,” saying it “conjures up fake religious freedom rights for corporations while being blind to the importance of birth control to America’s working women.”

Similar reactions were expressed on Twitter following the news. Summarizing the crux of the decision, NBC producer Jamil Smith wrote:

The Hobby Lobby decision means that in terms of personhood, corporations > women. And Christianity > everyone else.

— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 30, 2014

Others, joining Ginsburg’s outrage that now “legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs” would be denied essential health coverage, expressed their opinions under the banner “#jointhedissent.”

#jointhedissent Tweets

The majority opinion leaves open the possibility that the federal government can cover the cost of contraceptives for women whose employers opt out, leaving many to look to the Obama administration for their next move.

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  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Everything You Need To Know About The Administration’s New Birth Control Rules

— By Igor Volsky on Feb 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm

The Obama administration has released new regulations that help clarify which religious groups and organizations can opt out of providing birth control, as required under the Affordable Care Act, exempting most religiously affiliated groups from the requirement while ensuring that women will continue to receive birth control at no cost.

The law specifies that employers and insurers must provide a wide array of women’s health benefits, including contraception without additional co-pays. Houses of worship are exempt from the requirement. Nonprofit religiously affiliated organizations can also refuse to offer birth control coverage, though their employees may obtain contraception coverage that is part of their insurance plans directly from the insurer without additional cost to them or the companies.

The new rules make small changes to this agreement.

First, the federal government will apply the Internal Revenue Services’ definition for religious organization, which is slightly broader than how the term had been defined. Here is a comparison:

NEW DEFINITION OLD DEFINITION
holds itself out as a religious organization the inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization.
is organized and operates as a nonprofit entity the organization is a nonprofit organization
opposes providing coverage for some or all of any contraceptive services required on account of religious objections the organization employs and serves primarily persons who share its religious tenets
self-certifies that it meets these criteria and specifies the contraceptive services for which it objects to providing coverage not included in definition

This change also clarifies that “a house of worship would not be excluded from the exemption because, for example, it provides charitable social services to persons of different religious faiths or employs persons of different religious faiths.” Significantly, the rule draws a line at non-profit organizations and would not permit for-profit entities (companies like Hobby Lobby, for instance) to take advantage of the religious exemption.

Women who work for the exempt organizations will still have access to birth control through their insurance companies at no additional cost. But whereas before these insurers added birth control to their existing policies, the new regulations state the insurers (or third-party entities, if the employer is self-insured) will provide separate, individual birth control coverage. The objecting employer will not “have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.” Under these terms, women may have separate policies — one for general health care and another for birth control.

Ultimately, the rule is not expected to significantly change existing policy or “expand the universe of employer plans that would qualify for the exemption beyond that which was intended in the 2012 final rules. However, it could help dispel the more than 40 lawsuits that have been filed by employers arguing that the religious exclusion was too narrow and simply an accounting gimmick.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.