Barely 24 hours after the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling that for-profit companies are protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, one of the attorneys in the now-celebrated Hobby Lobby case says there are "at least 50 more" courtroom battles ahead that deal with religious liberty for non-profit organizations.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, Josh Hawley, senior counsel for the pro-religious freedom Becket Fund and co-counsel for the family-owned Hobby Lobby chain store that won in court, said plaintiffs in the coming cases dealing with non-profits ranged from the Little Sisters of the Poor order of nuns to religious-run universities and colleges such as Wheaton College and Notre Dame.
"The handwriting is on the wall after the court's ruling Monday," Columbia, Mo. attorney Hawley told Newsmax. "After the court's ruling on for-profits and religious liberty, the Obama administration should stop fighting groups like the Little Sisters and craft a genuine exemption for non-profits to the mandate [from the Department of Health and Human Services].
"It would not take an act of Congress but only the stroke of a [presidential] pen," Hawley said.
Rather than being part of any legislation enacted by Congress, the mandate Hawley spoke of is an order from former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that requires employers to pay for certain forms of contraception.
Contrary to many published reports, the Hobby Lobby case did not spell a ban on employers' providing contraceptives for employees. As Hawley explained to Newsmax:
"There are 20 forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and [Hobby Lobby] is already paying for 16 of the 20. But the mandate [from HHS] requires employers to pay for the other four forms that induce abortion -- and that violated the religious beliefs [of the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby]."
The "genuine exemption" envisioned by Hawley could come in several forms: first, rescinding the HHS mandate altogether; second, genuinely accommodating religious objections to providing or authorizing abortion-inducing drugs by having them provided by a third party such as the government; or third, having insurance companies pay for them.
But, he emphasized, the spirit of the "Hobby Lobby" case would be honored only "if non-profits are not required to authorize or pay for these forms of contraception as part of any healthcare plan for employees."
As to whether the Obama administration will try to craft such a "genuine exemption" to that mandate, the early signs are doubtful.
In reacting to the "Hobby Lobby" decision, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the administration will "respect" the ruling but will also "continue to look for ways to improve Americans' health by helping women have more, not less, say over the personal health decisions that affect them and their families," and that it is looking to Congress to take action.
"There is an opportunity for Congress to take the kinds of steps that will mitigate" the ruling, Earnest said.
Hawley told Newsmax that he found fellow Missourian Earnest's use of the word "mitigate" disturbing.
"I hope this doesn't mean failing to comply with Hobby Lobby," he said, "but it would appear that this administration has been hostile to religious freedom. It's a shame and it's unnecessary."
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