Conservative leaders in Kentucky are praising the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday that closely held corporations can opt out of providing contraceptives under the health care law.
The case was brought by Hobby Lobby, a family-owned business and national chain, which has religious objections to the provision.
In a 5-4 decision, the high court said the mandate is unlawful under standards established by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The justices in the majority added the federal government failed to demonstrate an interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to birth control.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a news release. “Obamacare is the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years, and I was glad to see the Supreme Court agree that this particular Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
Birth control is among a wide array of preventive medical services provided at no extra cost under President Obama’s health care overhaul. The split decision is being applied to “closely held companies,” which are defined as businesses where the majority of shareholders are five people or less.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has been critical of the Roberts Court for upholding the health care law overall, praised the latest ruling for favoring religious freedom.
“Religious liberty will remain intact and all Americans can stay true to their faith without fear of big government intervention or punishment,” Paul said in a news release. “Our nation was founded on the principle of freedom, and with this decision, America will continue to serve as a safe haven for those looking to exercise religious liberty.”
In the dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader called the majority’s ruling one of “startling breath.” It marks the first time justices have allowed companies the ability to declare a religious belief, and liberal critics have already begun to pounce on the ruling’s long-term effects as a setback for women’s health choices.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case is an affront to women’s health,” said Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville. “The court has introduced a new threat to women’s reproductive rights, placing the personal religious beliefs of employers over the health care needs of their female employees. No one should come between a woman and her doctor—including her boss.”
The decision is expected restart a political debate about women’s access to contraceptives and whether other mandates can be considered unconstitutional depending on religious convictions of providers.
For religious leaders, however, this decision is an affirmation for businesses like Hobby Lobby and other companies owned by people of faith.
“This is a major victory for religious liberty and Christian conscience,” Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, said in a news release.
“The major issue in this case was and is religious liberty as today’s decision makes very clear. The debate over contraception will continue, but the debate over religious liberty has been significantly strengthened and clarified by this landmark Supreme Court ruling.”
UPDATE 1:10 p.m.:
Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is taking on McConnell this fall, said the justices got the Hobby Lobby decision wrong.
“I support the right of all American women to have full access to contraception, and respect the exemption of churches from providing this service, if it is against their teachings,” Grimes said in a statement to WFPL. “While I think the Supreme Court got it wrong today regarding corporations, in cases where employers are found to be exempt from requirements that they provide such coverage, affordable insurance should be made available.”