The Broader Impact of The “Hobby Lobby” Ruling


CHARLOTTE, NC – The big story on the national stage this week, continues to be the Supreme Court’s ruling that some businesses do not have to cover certain kinds of contraception. Justice Ginsburg stated in her dissent that the recent exemption creates a slippery slope concerning religious beliefs and the health of employees.
Employment attorney Josh Van Kampen joined Rising this morning, to talk about the broader impacts this ruling could have.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court made a religious exception to the Affordable Care Act. The decision treats corporations like people with the rights to exercise religious freedoms. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that some companies, like Hobby Lobby, cannot be forced to pay for certain birth control for employees if they have religious objections. “This is a victory for religious freedom,” said Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary.

Now, the family-owned company Hobby Lobby does not have to provide insurance coverage for certain contraception like Plan B, also known as the “morning after” pill. “You can be a person of religious convictions and a person of faith and you can still operate a business in the United States without being compelled to violate your conscience,” said Land. Leaders of women’s rights groups like Planned Parenthood blasted the decision made by “five male justices” and say the decision takes away individual rights.

“It’s a decision between a woman and her doctor, not her boss, not her boss’ business, not her employer’s business,” said Marcie Shealy, Planned Parenthood director of development in Charlotte. The ruling only applies to “closely-held” companies where five people or less own at least 50 percent of the company’s stock. Studies show, closely held corporations employ 52 percent of the American workforce.

“There’s a slippery slope concern about how far this decision will reach,” said Josh Van Kampen, an employment attorney in Charlotte. Van Kampen says the ruling challenges laws that have been around for decades and essentially gives companies a free pass to exert religious beliefs. “An employer could claim that it has a religious objection to treating women equally to male employees for the purpose of equal pay, and now does that employer have the right to discriminate against women because it’s consistent to its religious beliefs?” said Van Kampen.

“If a person works for someone who has religious convictions that they feel deeply enough about to say, ‘We’re not going to provide something’, they can go work somewhere else. It’s a free marketplace,” said Land. Belmont Abbey College, a Roman Catholic college in Gaston County won its fight and will not have to provide free contraceptives to employees. A federal court ruled in favor of the college in 2012.