Secondly, the Court reviewed the Hobby Lobby request for an injunction in light of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act:
RFRA applies standards which are more protective of religious exercise than the constitutional standard. It prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, unless the government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest.
Once again, the Court looked at the implication of a corporation claiming rights. And once again, the court decided that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not “persons” within the meaning of the word, even though in some contexts, the word “person” can include a corporation. Corporations that have been given religious rights in the past were organizations that are religious in nature.
As to the Greens, the Court found that they must show that there is “(1) a substantial burden imposed by the federal government on a (2) sincere (3) exercise of religion.” The Court found that the second and third elements had been shown, leaving only the question of substantial burden at issue. The Court opined that a significant factor in determining whether something is substantial is to examine “the degree to which the challenged government action operates directly and primarily on the individual’s religious.“
The Court also looked to other jurisdictions and found that “some reasonably direct and personal connection between the religious exercise and the restraint in question must be present.” The Court then looked to the Supreme Court’s Lee decision:
Although Lee was a free exercise case and focused principally on the nature and application of the compelling interest test, its discussion of the impact of commercial activity provides some guidance on the issue of what constitutes a “substantial burden.” The Court noted that “every person cannot be shielded from all the burdens incident to exercising every aspect of the right to practice religious beliefs.” …The plain import is that there must be more than some burden on religious exercise. The burden must be substantial. The Court then went on to state that “[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity. Granting an exemption from social security taxes to an employer operates to impose the employer’s religious faith on the employees. Congress drew a line in § 1402(g), exempting the self-employed Amish but not all persons working for an Amish employer.”
Since the Green family had entered the commercial world for a non-religious purpose, the Court decided not to uphold their matters of conscience and faith against the rules of the Affordable Care Act, finding that “the burden on religious exercise be more direct and personal than has been shown here as to the Greens and their management of nationwide general business corporations.”
All it took was a “neutral law of generally applicability,” and now owners of corporations will be forced to go against their consciences and religious convictions by providing insurance plans with abortion-inducing drugs if they want to protect themselves from fines. While the Hobby Lobby case has been appealed, the Green family is left with an important decision. In their own words, they “face an unconscionable choice: either violate the law, or violate their faith.”