God and Country

“God and Country”

By Rev. Julia Hamilton | June 11, 2017

In 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a company, Hobby Lobby, did not have to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees because of the religious beliefs held by its owners. In the arguments, the Court cited the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law that states that the government shall not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” This Act was originally introduced to help protect the rights of Native Americans when it came to practicing their traditions on sacred lands and using sacred materials, but since the Act’s inception, it has been applied to any number of other cases.

I’m interested in this Hobby Lobby case in particular today not because of the question of contraception and reproductive rights – that is for another Sunday. Today I am interested in the Hobby Lobby case because of what it says about how our government views the free exercise of religion and the right of conscience in general. In this ruling, the Court seemed to say that a for-profit company could be said to have a religious conscience in the same way that an individual person does, and that they would constitutionally protected, provided that their beliefs are “sincere and religious in nature.” This ruling, that a corporation could have sincere religious beliefs, perked up my ears.

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