This year the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on at least two cases that weigh constitutional and statutory law against religious or moral beliefs. Both involve challenges to the Obamacare provision that requires for-profit companies to offer health insurance policies that cover contraception. In Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Secretary, etc., a national wood-supply company and its owners assert that they are entitled to an exemption based on their Mennonite owners’ view that contraception “is intrinsic evil and a sin against God to which they are held accountable.” In Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al. v. Sibelius, Hobby Lobby and its owners argue that they operate under Christian principles and that it would be “immoral” for them to provide contraception coverage.
The court is also likely to hear a third case: In Gilardi v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, a court of appeals case decided in November, the court held that the contraception mandate violated the constitutional and statutory rights of the plaintiffs, two Roman Catholic brothers who own a food-processing company. The judge who wrote the opinion, Janice Rogers Brown, has frequently been mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to a 2006 New York Times article by David D. Kirkpatrick, Brown “has often argued that judges should look to higher authority than precedent or man made laws in making decisions.” Her opinion in the Gilardi case relies explicitly on “moral” law in interpreting the Constitution and statutes. Forcing the Gilardi brothers to comply with the contraception mandate, she wrote, would be a “compelled affirmation of a repugnant belief.” She said the Affordable Care Act forces the plaintiffs to make a “Hobson’s choice”: Either they refuse to provide contraception coverage and pay a large monetary penalty, “or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong.”
If Judge Brown believes that constitutional and statutory law must yield to a “higher authority,” she isn’t alone.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]