Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant weighed in on The Supreme Court ruling Monday that some corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.
The justices’ 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies’ health insurance plans.
“I am very pleased the Supreme Court moved to uphold religious freedom today in its opinion in the Hobby Lobby case,” Bryant said. “Its decision confirms my position that our state did the right thing in enacting a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act and protecting religious liberty for Mississippians.”
Contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld two years later.
Two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that saved the health care law in the midst of Obama’s campaign for re-election. On Monday, dealing with a small sliver of the law, Roberts sided with the four justices who would have struck down the law in its entirety.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion. The court’s four liberal justices dissented.
“The federal RFRA requires the government to prove that substantially burdening religious freedom is necessary to achieve a truly compelling government interest,” Bryant said. “The Obama Administration had other options for implementing its policy, yet it chose to try and force individuals to violate their strongly held religious beliefs. This proves how out of line and self-important this administration is and how out of touch this president is with the basic principles of freedom on which this nation was founded.
“Thankfully, cooler heads have prevailed, and the Court ruled on the side of freedom and religious liberty.
The court stressed that its ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners, like the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-craft stores that challenged the provision.
Alito also said the decision is limited to contraceptives under the health care law. “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs,” Alito said.
“The Court’s ruling also made clear that RFRA does not authorize unlawful discrimination,” Bryant said. “Mississippi’s RFRA statute, which takes effect July 1, is nearly identical to the federal law, and I hope the Court’s opinion proves to detractors of Mississippi’s law that claims of discrimination are baseless.”