Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor. Their names were synonymous with major Supreme Court battles to stop the Obama Administration from forcing them and others to pay for drugs that cause abortions.
And when it came to their religious freedom to opt out of Obama’s abortion agenda, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch agreed.
In a significant ruling in a major landmark case, Gorsuch outlined a broad definition of religious freedom that could point to how he would rule in similar cases regarding abortion if confirmed by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ultimately sided with Hobby Lobby and the Court ruled that companies like it can be exempt from the Obama abortion mandate. Gorsuch sided with Hobby Lobby in 2013, writing, “The ACA’s mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong.”
He also argued in his own separate opinion that the individual owners and directors also had valid religious freedom claims.
All of us face the problem of complicity. All of us must answer for ourselves whether and to what degree we are willing to be involved in the wrongdoing of others. For some, religion provides an essential source of guidance both about what constitutes wrongful conduct and the degree to which those who assist others in committing wrongful conduct themselves bear moral culpability. The Green family members are among those who seek guidance from their faith on these questions. Understanding that is the key to understanding this case. As the Greens explain their complaint, the ACA’s mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong. No one before us disputes that the mandate compels Hobby Lobby and Mardel to underwrite payments for drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg. No one disputes that the Greens’ religion teaches them that the use of such drugs or devices is gravely wrong.
Gorsuch also sided with the Little Sisters of the Poor, defending the rights of nuns not to be forced to pay for abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans.
He joined a dissenting opinion written to side with the Little Sisters that read: “When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”
“All the plaintiffs in this case sincerely believe that they will be violating God’s law if they execute the documents required by the government. And the penalty for refusal to execute the documents may be in the millions of dollars. How can it be any clearer that the law substantially burdens the plaintiffs’ free exercise of religion?” the opinion added.
In Gorsuch’s words, the law “doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.”
In fact, as the Washington Post noted, “Gorsuch’s opinions favoring the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft stores and the nonprofit religious group Little Sisters of the Poor took the same sort of broad reading of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.”