The Supreme Court’s ruling allowing the owners of some secular, for-profit companies to deny their employees access to birth control is a blow to individual conscience and medical privacy rights, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“This decision is a double-edged disaster,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It conjures up fake religious freedom rights for corporations while being blind to the importance of birth control to America’s working women.”
Added Lynn, "The justices have set a dangerous precedent. While the Obama administration may arrange for the government to provide contraceptives, a future administration could easily take that away. In years to come, many women may find their access to birth control hanging by a thread.”
Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the cases (Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius) on behalf of diverse faith communities, arguing that the owners of secular corporations are not entitled to a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “contraception mandate.” Hobby Lobby and Conestoga both cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), legislation signed into law in 1993, in their defense.
The AU brief noted that many people have different religious beliefs about contraception than their employers and explained that if the plaintiffs prevailed, “employees would find it more difficult to make personal decisions about healthcare and contraception in accordance with their own consciences.”
“We are a country of great religious diversity, and American workers must be able to make their own medical, family and reproductive decisions according to their own moral and religious values,” said Gregory M. Lipper, Americans United’s senior litigation counsel and a primary author of the brief. “The high court is out of step with the reality of American society.”
In addition to Lipper, the brief was authored by Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and Madison Fellow Caitlin E. O’Connell.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.