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If religious freedom is important to you, then you need to know that to preserve it, means being persistent and prepared to fight on many fronts. President Obama underestimated the tenacious nuns of The Little Sisters of Poor when he mandated in 2010 through the Affordable Health Care Act that employers pay for their employees’ birth control. The nuns rejected the mandate as government coercion and in 2020 they were vindicated by the Supreme Court!
Typically, the Supreme Court of the United States wraps up its term on test cases before them by the end of the June every year. This year the court worked overtime and major decisions on cases lasted into the first two weeks of July. So, if you were distracted by the increase in COVID cases, social unrest or the Fourth of July weekend, here is what you need to know concerning recent decisions handed down by the High Court impacting people of faith.
The Supreme Court handed down two rulings in July that are significant victories for evangelical Christians. One upheld the Trump administration’s regulation that allows employers with religious or moral objections to limit women’s access to birth control under the Affordable Care Act. Churches were exempt but the Court’s ruling this week extends that religious exemption to other employers such as The Little Sister of the Poor, a Catholic charitable order of nuns, who began fighting for the exemption going back in 2012. Hobby Lobby had secured a limited victory in a similar challenge to the ACA in 2014, citing religious objections to paying for forms of birth control that it considered abortifacients or drugs that cause abortions. The latest ruling in what has become known as “the Little Sisters of the Poor Case,” exempts all employers with religious and conscientious objections to opt out of paying for contraceptives for employees as part of their companies’ health care plans.
The other ruling by the Supreme Court held by a 7-2 vote that religious schools can hire and fire employees who teach the faith without government interference. The Court said it is reasonable to choose teachers according to religious standards, not government standards. It also allows religious schools to fire employees based upon behavior or beliefs that are contrary to the institution’s moral or spiritual code. It is reasonable, the Court ruled, for religious schools to expect their teachers to practice what they teach.
While evangelicals lauded these two victories, they were offset by two rulings last month by the High Court that did not go the way religious organizations had hoped. The Court ruled in late June against requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors, and they extended employment protections to LGBTQ individuals without specifying protection for religious employers. So, the battles in the courts will continue, probably for years to come with new challenges by both sides introduced along the way. And, we will keep you up to date!
Fred Zielonko, is the Executive Director of the Family Vision Media, a non-profit dedicated to equipping families to respond to today’s news, culture and politics from a Christian worldview.