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Case Summary: Burwel V. Hobby, Inc. Essay

Facts: Hobby Lobby is a family owned arts and crafts store that runs on Christian principles. The companies statement of purpose is “honoring the Lord in all [they] do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles. ” The family does not believe in the use of contraception but under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the company is required to offer a minimum coverage health care plan that includes forms of contraception.

The plaintiffs filed suit to challenge the requirement to provide contraceptive method to their employees under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the First Amendment (Free Exercise Clause), and the Administrative Procedural Act (APA). The owners of Hobby Lobby, the Greens, sued the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human services to object the requirement to provide their employees with forms of contraception.

Procedural History: Once in District Court, the court denied a preliminary injunction, Hobby Lobby then appealed the case to a higher court, moving for an initial session in which the case is heard before all judges of a court. In a divided opinion, the Tenth Circuit granted the motion and reversed it. Unlike the Third Circuit, the Tenth Circuit held that the Greens’ business was considered a “person” and therefore, can bring suit. It was then concluded that the Greens’ business had “demonstrated irreparable harm,” the court then reversed the order and remanded for the District Court to consider the remaining actors of the preliminary-injunction test.

The Supreme Court then had to decide whether the RFRA permits the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to demand that the corporation provides health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the religious beliefs of the owners. Issues: 1. Can a corporation be a “person” within the meaning of RFRA? 2. Does the birth control mandate place a “substantial burden” on Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs? Holdings: 1. Yes, it was held that the Green’s two for-profit businesses are “persons” within the meaning of RFRA.

The court extends the definition of “person” to corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies. 2. Yes, RERA prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion. The contraception requirement forces corporations that are religious to fund for abortion or face fines, which goes against their religious principles, which creates a substantial burden which is not the least restrictive method to satisfy the interests of government.

Rationale: In a previous court ruling of United States v. Lee (1982), the Supreme Court ruled that an employer cannot deprive employees of a statutory right because of religious beliefs. It was later ruled that Lee does not apply because the challenge was not a significant burden. Under RFRA, a Government action that imposes a burden on religious exercise must serve a government interest. HHS must constitute the least restrictive means of serving that interest, and the mandate for the Hobby Lobby case fails that test.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), companies with 50 or more full time employees are required to offer a health care plan that provides minimum health care coverage, including forms of contraception. It was ruled that there are other ways in which Congress, or even HHS, could equally ensure that women had cost-free access to contraceptives. The Supreme Court ruled that individuals should not have to surrender their religious independence in order to open a business. Therefore, religious family-owned corporations such as Hobby Lobby, cannot be forced to pay for employees’ contraception methods.

Disposition: The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision as a matter of constitutional law. The court ruled that a corporation does not have to provide employees with contraception methods if it interferes with religious beliefs. The court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and stated that the decisions whether to claim benefits under the plans are not made by Hobby Lobby, but by the employees and their health care providers. Therefore, an employee’s decision on whether or not to obtain a form of contraception is made between the employee and her physician, not the employer.

Dissenting Opinions: Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sotomayor, Justice Breyer and Justice Kagan, issued a dissenting opinion. Justice Breyer and Kagan together filed a separate dissent stating that this ruling should apply only when defining the “exercise of religion” in a RLUIPA case, but not in a RFRA case. The Justices argue that RLUIPA is interpreted broadly and that RFRA should be given the same broad meaning that applied under RLUIPA. Justice Ginsburg dissent was that because of the ruling companies would attempt to opt of any laws that they believed were “incompatible” with their religious beliefs.

Justice Kennedy concurred because he believes that free exercise is essential for one’s own dignity and to be able to self-strive. Justice Kennedy believes that the United States is a free country where people should not be restricted by the government due to their religion. Analysis: With the court’s decision, corporations with religious owners and views are not required to pay for the insurance coverage of contraception for their employees. Corporations are now also to be treated like “people” and have the same rights as a single person would have.

If the court had chosen an alternative rule, corporations would still be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception. I do not agree with the decision, I feel that although it may interfere with a corporation’s religious beliefs, a woman’s decision about her health and lifestyle is ultimately her decision and her rights should not be taken away because of the owner’s beliefs. Due to this ruling, I believe that companies will now use the excuse of religious beliefs as reasons to not provide full coverage to their employees and will use it as a way to avoid fines and providing the right insurance.

A. The federal court system has jurisdiction over this case because the case involves a violation of the U. S. Constitution because the ACA did substantially burden the religious belief held by Christian owners. Also, the amount of the case exceeded $75,000. If Hobby Lobby did not cover the contraceptives at issue, they would have been taxed $100 a day for each individual that was affected, the bill would come out to about $1. 3 million per day or $475 million per year.

B. The Supreme Court heard this case because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which was passed in 2010, required that health insurance covered birth control. In Employment Div. , of Human Resources of Ore v. Smith, where two members of the Native American Church were dismissed by their employer due to the consumption of peyote as a religious ceremony. The 10th Circuit Court ruled that that Hobby Lobby had religious freedom but other federal courts sustained the federal government’s contraceptive rule. The U. S. Supreme Court took the case because of the difference in opinion between the different federal Courts of Appeals.

C. Arbitration would have been used in this type of dispute. Arbitration would have been helpful because it is more formal and there is a neutral third party making the legally binding decision, the decision is not between the two parties. Negotiation would not be the best form of ADR for this case because it is informal and man times it does not even require an attorney. Also, mediation would not be appropriate because there are no deadlines and the parties would have to come face-to-face with a mediator to determine the final ruling

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