On a cold Tuesday morning in Washington D.C., the hearing for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties began. Here are a few quotes to highlight from the day:
1) “Under your argument, corporations could be forced to pay for abortions, that there would be no religious claim against that on the part of the corporation. Is that right?” – Justice Anthony Kennedy
This question showed concern over the notion of for-profit companies being forced to pay for actual abortions. Justice Kennedy asked if Congress would be within its rights to require pro-life employers to pay directly for abortion. The government’s response during the hearing – Yes. If a law forcing businesses to provided directly for abortions was passed, “then you’re right, under our theory, that the for-profit corporation wouldn’t have an ability to sue…” (Donald B. Verrilli, defending Kathleen Sebelius)
As PFI’s Randall Wenger said, confirming Justice Kennedy’s concern, “there really needs to be some kind of escape valve here so that corporations aren’t forced to do things that violate their most deeply held convictions.”
2.) But isn’t there another choice nobody talks about, which is paying the tax, which is a lot less than a penalty and a lot less than the cost of health insurance at all?” – Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Justice Elena Kagan went even further – “There’s a choice here. It’s not even a penalty by – in the language of the statute. It’s a payment or a tax. There’s a choice.”
PFI board member Kent Martin – a business owner in Lancaster County himself and in attendance for the hearing – wanted to jump out of his chair after this statement. Businesses don’t offer insurance to avoid fines. They offer insurance to find and maintain good employees.
Randall Wenger: “I thought the point of Obamacare was to get everyone insurance? So it seems odd to me that there would be an encouragement to drop all insurance altogether.”
3) “All we’re really talking about is who’s going to pay for a subsidy that the government prefers. This is not about access to the contraception. It’s about who’se going to pay for the government’s preferred subsidy.” – Attorney Paul Clement, on behalf of both Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby
Justice Kennedy asked if an employer’s religious beliefs trump their employees. Clement firmly stated that employer’s beliefs do not supersede those of employees. He also suggested that there are ample alternatives for providing contraceptive coverage to women that would not impose a burden on the sincerely held beliefs of employers.
Clement went on to say, “If a woman can’t get an abortion from her preferred provider, that’s surely a significant burden on her. But we don’t view that as trumping the conscience clause because she can get the abortion through another mechanism.”
4) “Does a corporation have a race?”– Chief Justice John Roberts
Donald Verrilli, Solicitor General representing the government in this case, responded by saying no and recognized that currently corporations can make a claim of racial discrimination. This was the lead in to the question Justice Roberts followed with – could a corporation make a claim of religious discrimination? Verrilli again said no; arguing against religious freedom by maintaining that that was not what Congress intended when it wrote the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). To this, Justice Samuel Alito stated, “You’re saying they [a business] can’t even get their day in court? That’s pretty strong.”
5) “Rather than sacrifice our obedience to God, my family, the Green family and many others have chosen to take a stand and defend life and freedom against government coercion. We didn’t choose this fight. Our families would have been happy to just continue providing good jobs and generous health care benefits – but the government forced our hand. We hope and pray that the Supreme Court will uphold the religious freedoms for all Americans who seek to glorify God even as we go about making a living.” – Anthony Hahn, CEO & President – Conestoga Wood Specialties
The Hahn family came down the steps of the Supreme Court after the hearing, Anthony Hahn walking hand-in-hand with his wife. It’s a reminder that this cases involves real people – people who have sincerely-held beliefs and take their beliefs seriously.
Anthony Hahn made a brief one-minute statement to the press expressing his families take on the case. For the full statement: http://tinyurl.com/HahnStatement