FLINT TWP. — Former First Lady Hilary Clinton was among a raft of public figures and organizations voicing reactions to Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the religious right of Hobby Lobby stores not to pay for contraception or abortions for its employees, as a provision of the new Affordable Care Act.
Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby operates about 572 craft stores in 41 states including one in Flint Township at 3192 Linden Road.
In Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services et.al. vs. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. et. al, the high court ruled 5-4 that the government could not force Hobby Lobby and other religious-based companies to provide birth control measures that violate their religious convictions.
The company faced millions of dollars in annual penalties if the court ruling had gone the other way.
Clinton, speaking an appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, called the ruling “deeply disturbing,’’ according to published reports.
“It’s the first time that our court has said that a closely held corporation has the rights of a person when it comes to religious freedom, which means the corporation’s … [‘closely held’] employers can impose their religious beliefs on their employees, and, of course, denying women the right to contraceptives as part of a health care plan is exactly that,” she said.
Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee also issued a statement.
“This morning’s Supreme Court decision is a blow to women’s rights,” he said. “Decisions about a woman’s health care should be made by herself and her doctor – not by her employer. A corporation’s ability to dictate health care policies to its employees on the grounds of ‘religious beliefs’ is a dangerous precedent that opens the door to further acts of discrimination. …”
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan also criticized the ruling.
“It is unbelievable that we are still fighting for full access to birth control for all women in 2014,” said Libby Drerup McGaughey, vice president of public advocacy for PPAM. “Women should be empowered to make their own health decisions without the interference of their employer. Period.”
Progress Michigan, a Lansing-based advocacy group for government accountability and progressive ideas, said the court ruling means that employers can impose their religious beliefs on employees.
“The Supreme Court continues to side with corporations over the well-being of workers across the country, especially women,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Religious liberty is about not having your boss’s beliefs imposed onto you. The religious beliefs of bosses and CEOs should not interfere with an employee’s ability to access affordable birth control. Women across this country deserve access to affordable birth control and should not be forced to pay more so that CEOs can continue to line their pockets under the guise of religious freedom.”
On the other hand, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette was among those applauding the court’s decision.
“Today, the nation’s highest court has upheld the religious liberties and freedoms of individuals across this land,” Schuette said in a statement.
Schuette noted that Chief Justice Roberts along with Justices Alito and Scalia acknowledged the constitutional protection of the People’s Freedom of Religion in the ruling:
“The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion…If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price—as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.”
Schuette added the ruling was positive news for Michigan businesses mounting similar legal challenges.
On its website Hobby Lobby hailed the decision as a “victory for religious liberty.’
“Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby.
“Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles. The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but also 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.”
Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby added: “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. This ruling will protect people of all faiths.” — Rhonda Sanders