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Press Release

ADL to Supreme Court: Commercial Businesses Cannot Impose Religious Beliefs on Employees

New York, NY, January 28, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has joined a friend-of-the court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that owners of for-profit, secular corporations cannot impose their religious beliefs about birth control on their employees by denying contraception insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Owners of corporations that sell arts and crafts supplies, books, and wood cabinetry, in Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, are attempting to use the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to resist the ACA’s contraception mandate.

Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director issued the following statement:

The Affordable Care Act does not require owners of corporations to condone contraceptives; in fact, they have the constitutional right to voice their sincere religious beliefs on contraception and all other issues. But their beliefs cannot trump others’ rights when they are operating in the commercial marketplace. 

If the Supreme Court were to accept the argument these corporations are making, it could open the door to for-profit companies denying coverage for other essential medical services that some owners might deem religiously offensive, such as blood transfusions, psychiatric care and vaccinations.  And it could also reopen the door to forms of discrimination long-since recognized as unconstitutional.

RFRA -- the passage of which ADL supported -- requires the federal government to demonstrate a compelling interest before it can “substantially burden” a person’s religious exercise.  The statute was meant to be a shield against religious discrimination.  But the petitioners here are attempting to use it as a sword giving them license to impose their religious beliefs on others.  That undermines the purpose of the statute, and turns on its head the very notion of religious freedom. 

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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Update

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a case regarding the obligation of for-profit corporations to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees, determined that private, closely held corporations can rely on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to refuse to include certain forms of contraception in the insurance coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act.  More

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