Congressman Jeff Fortenberry applauds the US Supreme Court ruling that upholds Hobby Lobby’s right to opt out of providing some forms of contraception under the federal health care law.
“Well, I think the court got this right,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network in a telephone interview. “I think the court ruling represents one of basic fairness and it upholds the fundamental American principle of the rights of conscience and religious liberty. This was a very serious concern to many Americans and I think the court acted in due fairness to principle of law, one that has been a precedent in our culture and in other laws and in the whole health care realm. So, I think they got it right.”
The court ruled in a 5-to-4 vote that the federal government cannot compel a family-owned corporation to provide contraception coverage that violates the owner’s religious convictions.
Both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties filed lawsuits against the federal government, claiming the contraception mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services violated their First Amendment religious rights.
Specifically, the family-held corporations sought exemptions from a few of the 20 methods of contraception DHHS mandates that health insurance policies provide. Those methods of contraception edge too closely to abortion, according to the businesses, which runs contrary to the religious beliefs of their owners.
The ruling in favor of the businesses relied heavily on the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993, which requires the federal government to find the least restrictive way to enforce rules that might be contrary to religious beliefs.
“It’s the government who is the aggressor here. It’s the government who is infringed upon the rights of people who are already providing health care services,” according to Fortenberry. “This is the irony of the case. Hobby Lobby was providing a very robust and good health care plan for its employees and simply excluding a particular drug that they found to be ethically divisive. Now, who is the government to come along and say that their religious view on that is wrong?”
Though the majority opinion described the ruling as narrow, a dissent cast a different view, stating that it would invite businesses to seek religiously based exemptions from various federal rules and laws.
Fortenberry says the 5-4 ruling reflects a divided court, which in turn reflects a divided nation.
Fortenberry, who sat in on the oral arguments in the case, says the federal government should not try to force family-owned businesses to go against the religious convictions of their owners.
“So, I think the Supreme Court got this right. They acted in a fair manner. They have upheld this long-standing American principle of the rights of conscience, a sacred place as expressed in religious liberty for individuals as well as organizations that individuals form.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews Congressman Jeff Fortenberry on Hobby Lobby ruling. [7:10]