June 30, 2014 3:11 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—Monday's Supreme Court decision enabling some private companies to opt out of the federal health law's some contraception coverage requirements ignited partisan dueling over not just the 2010 health-care law but over a 1993 religious-freedom law cited in the decision
The high court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case refocused attention on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that passed Congress overwhelmingly in 1993, with the support of some lawmakers still serving in both the House and Senate. this law was passed by congress after the Supreme Court in Employment Division v. Smith (1990) (opinion written by Scalia) weakened the first amendment's religious protection from the government having a compelling interest (banning suicide bombings) to only a rational reason for the law (a law that forces grocery stores to be open 7 days a week would be a rational based reason due to the government's interest in allowing consumers to shop any day of the week) that would infringe on religion , congress passed this law to restrengthen it back to it's original protection. The RFRA was later weakened by the Supreme court again in 1997 in the case of state laws. The statute requires federal laws to accommodate individuals' religious beliefs unless there is a compelling interest as opposed to a rational reason as was the case after the 1990 court decision at stake that can't be attained through other means.
While Republicans on Monday triumphantly pointed to the law's role in the decision, Democrats said they hadn't anticipated the law would be so broadly expanded or more accurately that it would be applied to a law they agree with.
The Supreme Court's so-called Hobby Lobby decision attracted a lot of attention this week because it's an important ruling on the Affordable Care Act. WSJ's Jerry Seib discusses the decision's long-term political ramifications.
The Supreme Court's majority agreed, citing the religious-freedom law in its decision and not the first amendment like they should have.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the lead Republican sponsor of the religious-freedom law when it passed the Senate in a 97-3 vote, said Monday's decision affirmed Congress' decision to pass the law in the first place.
"As the Supreme Court rightfully said today, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could not have been clearer in saying religious liberty of all Americans must be equally protected and not unnecessarily burdened," Mr. Hatch said in a statement. "That's why RFRA passed Congress overwhelmingly more than 20 years ago."
The bill passed the House on a voice vote and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
The U.S. Supreme Court said "closely held" companies can, on religious grounds, opt out of covering employees' contraception costs in health-care plans.
"No matter how sincerely held a religious belief might be, for-profit employers—like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood—should not be allowed to wield their beliefs as a means of denying employees access to critical preventive health-care services," or the law mandating stores open up on Saturday said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) who supported the law in 1993. At the time, lawmakers kept in place a principle that religion doesn't exempt for-profit businesses from complying with civil rights laws, for example, Mr. Nadler said.
The bill was introduced in March 1993 by Charles Schumer of New York, then in the House, now a member of the Senate's Democratic leadership. Mr. Schumer joined a group of 18 other Senate Democrats who filed an amicus brief supporting the Obama administration in the Hobby Lobby case. In the brief, the Democrats had urged the court to clarify that the religious-freedom law doesn't permit for-profit businesses to deny health coverage or close on Saturday to their employees based on their owners' religious objections.
In a statement Monday, Mr. Schumer called the Supreme Court's decision "dead wrong," saying the law he introduced was intended to give individuals the ability "to exercise their religious beliefs without government interference." The law "was not intended to extend the same protection to for-profit corporations, whose very purpose is to profit from the open market a Jewish business is required to follow all laws even if they go against the Torah," he said.
Republicans had filed their own briefs supporting the challengers and arguing that the health law's mandate violated the religious-freedom law.
The law in question was originally intended to nullify a decision from Justice Antonin Scalia in the early 1990s that denied religious exemptions from generally applicable laws last year he explicitly said that would include legislation to ban Milah Scalia's view on the lack of freedom of religion may in the future make him just as dangreous as Ruth Bader Ginsburg currently is, if the liberals push in laws that mandate following liberalism over Judaism (this has applications in way more areas than the obvious wedding cake for a same sex "wedding"ex. the gays push an anti Milah law and Scalia signs off on it). The dispute arose when Oregon denied unemployment benefits to adherents of a Native American religion who used peyote, a controlled substance, in their ceremonies.
—Jess Bravin, Beth Reinhard and Louise Radnofsky contributed to this article.
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