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Senate Democrats Try to Torpedo Hobby Lobby Ruling

Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, had some choice words for Planned Parenthood and others working to radically undermine religious liberty in the Senate this week. “Obviously, activists who would use the heavy hand of government to squelch our nation’s founding freedoms are undeterred,” he said.

In an effort to overturn the recent Supreme Court victory for religious freedom in the cases of two family businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Senate Democrats this week attempted, and thankfully failed, to force through dangerous legislation that would have removed employer health plans from the purview of the broad, long-standing, and bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Dr. Johnson called the Democrats’ bill “knee-jerk and ill-conceived.” Indeed, it would have been the first such carve-out to the 20-year-old RFRA, which demands deference to religious liberty unless there is a “compelling government interest” achieved by the “least restrictive means.”           

“Let’s be clear: [This] vote was not about health policy but about America’s commitment to religious freedom,” continued Dr. Johnson. “Quite frankly, despite the wishes of Planned Parenthood and their allies on Capitol Hill, Christian business owners should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs by providing for abortion.”

RFRA was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and by a 97-3 vote in the Senate in 1993. On November 16, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the bill in the White House Rose Garden and declared, “The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom – that which originally sparked the development of the full range of the Bill of Rights. Our founders… knew that there needed to be a space of freedom between government and people of faith that otherwise government might usurp.”

  • Find the vote results on this anti-religious freedom bill here.
  • Find the 2014 NRB Board Resolution supporting Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties in their Supreme Court cases here, and NRB’s Amicus Curiae brief in these cases arguing for appropriate “breathing room” for religious freedom in accordance with RFRA here.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: July 18, 2014

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