Story

High court: Employers can force religious beliefs on employees

PHOENIX – The Secular Coalition for Arizona, the voice of non-theists at the Arizona State Legislature, has strongly condemned the United States Supreme Court’s regressive decision today in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
 
The court’s 5-4 decision gives overzealous employers the green light to cite their personal religious beliefs when denying female employees reproductive health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
 
“Today’s decision marks a tragic move back to the politics of the pre-Civil Rights era,” said Tory Anderson, public policy advocate for the Secular Coalition for Arizona.  “The rights women have fought for and earned have been dealt a devastating blow.
 
“The inalienable right for a woman to keep her private healthcare decisions between herself and he doctor was at stake, and the Supreme Court ruled against upholding that right.”
 
Large employers are required to provide employees basic preventive care, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, under conditions of the ACA.  The law already exempted religious, non-profit organizations from having to provide contraceptive services.
 
“There are myriad Supreme Court precedents that have made it clear that for-profit companies are not religious organizations,” said Zenaido Quintana, director of the Secular Coalition for Arizona.  “That’s why they are not afforded the same protections as a church or religious nonprofits.”
 
Hobby Lobby argued their position based on a 1993 law that states governments “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”
 
But Quintana pointed out that accepting such an argument is nonsensical.
 
“Providing insurance that offers reproductive healthcare options does not constitute a ‘substantial burden,’” he said.  “We support every American’s right to freely practice their religion, or lack thereof, but that is not the issue here. A nationwide corporation should not have the right to force its religious views on their employees, especially for something as important as a woman’s health. This is no different than refusing to serve or firing someone because they do not share your beliefs.”
 
Today’s ruling does not mark the end of the fight to keep personal religious preferences out of public policy, Anderson said.
 
“Despite this decision, we will continue to advocate for a woman’s right to all of her constitutionally protected healthcare options. We will continue to push back against any business or government entity that tries to impose its narrow religious interpretations on the whole of the American people.” 
 
The Secular Coalition for Arizona educates elected representatives and other officials regarding issues important to Arizona non-theists.  Learn more at www.secularaz.org/about.
 

News Type: