WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a key regulation in President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation is illegal as applied to millions of Americans of faith, as well as their businesses or organizations.
In Obamacare’s second round before the nation’s highest court, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion in the 5-to-4 rebuke of the Obama administration for violating the individual rights of American citizens, holding the so-called HHS Abortion Pill Mandate violates religious liberty protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).
Obama’s beleaguered Affordable Care Act includes a requirement that all employers offering insurance must make “preventive care” part of their healthcare package. The White House decided that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would issue a regulation declaring “preventive care” includes numerous forms of birth control, including at least four that cause abortions in pregnant women.
Two Christian-owned companies—home retail giant Hobby Lobby and a much smaller business, Conestoga Wood Specialties—filed suit. Hobby Lobby is owned by the Green family, who are Evangelical. Conestoga Wood Specialties is owned by the Hahn family, who are Mennonite.
Employers who provide healthcare without the abortion-pill coverage face a fine of $100 per employee, per day (meaning $36,500 per year for each worker). For Hobby Lobby, that would mean a penalty of $1.4 million per day, or approximately $500 million per year.
Because the Court held that this regulation violates a federal law, it did not need to reach the larger question of whether this Obamacare mandate also violates Americans’ First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion.
This was Obamacare’s second round before the nation’s highest court. The stakes in this case were enormous in that, had the Court gone the other way, it would have marked the first time in history that the American government told its citizens that they must either surrender their religious beliefs or be forced into insolvency and possibly bankruptcy.
The first permanent residents who settled the United States came here for religious liberty, specifically to live their lives and conduct their business and public affairs consistent with their religious conscience. That principle appears to have been central to the justices’ deciding this case.
Breitbart News will post a full analysis of the Supreme Court’s opinion later today, but the political ramifications seem clear regardless of the legal dimension.
This case has immediate implications for the 2016 election. It was a 5-to-4 decision. Two of the justices in the majority are 79-years old (Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy) and one justice in dissent is 81 (Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
Assuming all three justices continue in office for the next two years, the next president will likely replace all three—and with it usher in a new era for the United States, one way or the other.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter@kenklukowski.