Oklahoma conservative lawmakers and religious leaders hailed the Supreme Court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.’s fight against the Affordable Care Act mandate on contraceptives coverage as a victory for religious freedom, while reproductive and civil liberties groups said the ruling infringed on women’s access to health care.
Gov. Mary Fallin praised the court decision Monday.
“Religious liberty is one of the principles this nation was founded upon. It is a freedom woven into the fabric of this country and expressly outlined in our Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court acted today to protect religious liberty and defend our citizens from an overreaching, overbearing federal government,” Fallin said in a statement. “I congratulate Hobby Lobby, a great Oklahoma company, for successfully standing up to the powers that be in Washington and working to protect the freedoms enjoyed by all Americans.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of Hobby Lobby on the state’s behalf, also applauded the decision.
“This ruling reaffirms the principle that America is a nation that recognizes first among our unalienable rights is the right to freely exercise our faith,” Pruitt said in a statement. “I am thankful the Green family courageously stood up for their beliefs in the face of severe penalty from the federal government.”
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, who joined with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and 13 members of Congress to file a legal brief with the Supreme Court in support of Hobby Lobby and CEO David Green and family, celebrated the ruling on Monday.
“Obamacare’s mandate that employers provide abortion-inducing drugs to employees violated the conscience of the Greens,” Inhofe said in a statement. “Instead of succumbing to enormous financial penalties for failing to comply, the Green family stood strong in their faith and successfully fought against the intrusions of the federal government and preserved their right to religious freedom.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, said in a statement issued Monday that the Hobby Lobby case “was not about access to birth control, but government coercion.”
“The Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for all Americans. The Court wisely affirmed that it is wrong for the government to violate the freedom of conscience and religious liberties of American citizens,” Coburn said.
Several Oklahoma religious leaders also praised the ruling.
“Religious liberty ranks first among our cherished freedoms, and this Court ruling affirms and recognizes this God-given freedom,” the Rev. Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said in a prepared statement. The convention represents more than 1,800 churches throughout the state.
“Hobby Lobby and the Green family represent the very best of Christian-owned businesses,” Jordan said.
The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said he also was pleased with the court ruling.
“Even as we are examining the ruling closely to see whether it provides the real relief from the mandate that employers with religious objections need, we are hopeful that this signals the Court’s understanding of the fundamental importance of religious liberty, our first and most cherished freedom,” Coakley said in a prepared statement.
Some decry ruling
Women’s reproductive rights groups countered that the ruling wrongly placed the religious freedom of employers above employees’ rights to affordable health care coverage.
“Today, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to women’s health. For the first time, the Court has given some bosses the right to allow their religious beliefs to trump the health needs of their employees,” Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement. “Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood and other closely held corporations will now have a license to harm their female employees in the name of religion.”
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement that employers should not have the right to control women’s health care decisions.
“Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights,” Hogue said.
“This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination.”
Meanwhile, the Rev. Bruce Prescott of Norman, a retired Baptist minister, said he was disappointed by the ruling.
“He (Hobby Lobby founder David Green) wants to have the benefits of being a corporation but also the benefits of a religious nonprofit,” Prescott said. “They are muddling things when they allow him to do this.”
Prescott, a member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the ruling set a dangerous precedent.
He said the court “trampled” over the religious liberty rights of the company’s employees when it comes to health care.
“We’re getting rid of affirmative action. We’re getting rid of voting rights. We’re finding ways that now you can discriminate on the basis of religion. We’re going back to the 1950s,” he said.