"America’s workers and taxpayers are the losers," according to Cardozo Law Professor Marci Hamilton, a leading authority in religion and state constitutional conflicts. The decision by the United States Supreme Court came down on Monday, June 30th and is perhaps the most controversial of this year's decisions by the high court. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court said that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.
The decision, which applied to two companies owned by Christian families, opened the door to challenges from other corporations to many laws that may be said to violate their religious liberty.
Hobby Lobby, a chain of crafts stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which makes wood cabinets, objected to some of the methods, saying they are tantamount to abortion because they can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb. Providing insurance coverage for those forms of contraception would, the companies said, make them complicit in the practice.
"This decision means large, for-profit corporations can use RFRA and their owners’ (or board members’) religious beliefs to trump the federal anti-discrimination laws, like Title VII; craft benefit policies according to their own religious lights, even though their employees have different beliefs; and make medical treatments in all categories more difficult for workers to obtain," said Prof. Hamilton. "Pandora’s box is now open for all to see."
"Even if workers can still obtain the medication, as in this particular case, it is only because taxpayers must pay for it," said Hamilton. "We have just shifted the cost of healthcare from believers to the government." Hamilton went on to say that over 80% of U.S. corporations will now be able to discriminate against their employees.
The government loses on "least restrictive means." As usual, the impossible standard for the government to meet is the "least restrictive means" standard. This is the part of RFRA that was never part of the Supreme Court's doctrine and turns RFRA into a tool for extreme protection for extreme views.
Professor Hamilton filed an amicus brief in the case. She has clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court and is considered one of the leading constitutional scholars on the area of First Amendment religion cases and the law known as RFRA which she has advocated repealing.
"The time has come to repeal RFRA and return to common sense religious liberty under the First Amendment," said Hamilton.