Everyone (including me) thought Hobby Lobby's sincere beliefs began and ended with paying for methods of contraception they didn't believe in. But no, it was much more than that.
Today the Supreme Court released orders relating to their decisions. Those include handling petitions related to the case they decided; in this case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
Wheaton College, a small Christian college in Illinois*, petitioned the court to order that they didn't have to file any documents certifying that they were a religious organization and therefore exempt from providing coverage for contraception as required by the ACA.
To which we all ask why it is such a burden to file a form, right? Digby:
Right. Filling out a form is right up there with the Spanish Inquisition.
Is there anyone left who doesn't understand that the social conservatives are really, truly, cross their hearts, seriously opposed to birth control (also known as women having sex for pleasure?)
Yet Wheaton maintains that taking these steps to avail itself of the accommodation would substantially burden its religious exercise. Wheaton is “religiously opposed to emergency contraceptives because they may act by killing a human embryo.” And it “believes that authorizing its [third-party administrator] to provide these drugs in [its] place makes it complicit in grave moral evil.” Wheaton is mistaken—not as a matter of religious faith, in which it is undoubtedly sincere, but as a matter of law: Not every sincerely felt “burden” is a “substantial” one, and it is for courts, not litigants, to identify which are.
So their objection isn't just a lazy thing. They know that under current regulations, if they certify that they are a religious organization, their third-party administrator will have to pick up the costs for contraceptive coverage. By refusing to certify, they weasel out.
And this footnote on page 15 confirms it:
Wheaton’s third-party administrator bears the legal obligation to provide contraceptive coverage only upon receipt of a valid self-certification...Today’s injunction thus risks depriving hundreds of Wheaton’s employees and students of their legal entitlement to contraceptive coverage. In addition, because Wheaton is materially indistinguishable from other nonprofits that object to the Government’s accommodation, the issuance of an injunction in this case will presumably entitle hundreds or thousands of other objectors to the same remedy. The Court has no reason to think that the administrative scheme it foists on the Government today is workable or effective on a national scale.
Justice Sotomayor also turned to the issue of 'sincere beliefs.'
Let me be absolutely clear: I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs. But thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened—no matter how sincere or genuine that belief may be—does not make it so.
Unless you're a man and you're also a Supreme Court Justice. Then it not only makes it so, it makes it real. I guess they figured publishing this order on the day before a holiday might make us all ignore it. I guess believing doesn't make it so.
Update: In case you're confused about the ramifications of the majority's order, here is a short summary:
The court just opened the door for any organization to duck the filing requirement that would allow the government to step in and offer birth control to their employees. Therefore, hundreds or thousands of organizations will now claim a religious exemption without filing, leaving their employees without coverage for contraception.
*Corrected from original erroneous reference to Indiana
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