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Mormon, Catholic leaders in Utah laud Hobby Lobby ruling

Published July 3, 2014 5:28 pm

Faith • BYU law professor predicts more suits over religious rights, including LGBT issues.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Several Utah faiths — including Catholicism, which opposes all forms of artificial birth control, and Mormonism, which does not — hailed Monday's Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby's favor as a clear victory for religious freedom.

"In its ruling, the Supreme Court reaffirmed vital constitutional protections for our individual right to fully form our own conscience," Bishop John C. Wester, leader of the state's 300,000 Catholics, said in a statement. "The narrow ruling recognizes that privately held companies are run by individuals with deeply held religious beliefs."

It also "reflects the reality that certain forms of so-called contraception are really abortifacients, designed not to prevent conception, but to end life," Wester said. "As such, the court's decision respects the sanctity of an individual's well-formed conscience by recognizing the undue burden the contraception mandate places on employers who believe in the dignity and sacredness of human life."

LDS Church spokeswoman Jessica Moody praised Monday's ruling as "a milestone event in upholding religious freedom."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had signed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief in the case, arguing that for-profit businesses have a religious right not to provide "drugs and devices believed to sometimes cause abortions."

The Utah-based LDS Church does not oppose birth control, leaving such decisions up to the couples involved. Even so, its own insurer, Deseret Mutual, which covers all church employees, does not cover any devices or medications for the purpose of family planning.

"Health insurance plans for church employees cover contraception," an LDS Church spokesman has said, "only when it is medically necessary for addressing health conditions."

While Mormon and Catholic leaders lauded Monday's decision, others warned of possible wider impacts.

"Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg's dissent was right," said Frederick Gedicks, a law professor at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University. "It was a decision of startling breadth."

Gedicks — speaking as an individual, not an LDS representative — previously had argued that asking for a religious exemption to Obamacare's requirement to cover workers' birth-control costs violates the employees' — not the employers' — religious rights.

With this ruling, the court has set a new precedent, the BYU lawyer said.

For more than a century, U.S. courts made distinctions between for-profit businesses owned by religious individuals and nonprofit religions or religious organizations.

"Now every time a for-profit business or owner has a religious objection to some government regulation," Gedicks said, "the courts will have to figure out whether the government interests are important enough and narrowly drawn enough to justify the burden."

The principle is clear: For-profit businesses have a presumptive right to be excused from laws and regulations that burden their religious beliefs.

The idea that the government has a ready-made means to supply contraceptives to Hobby Lobby employees "is a pipe dream," Gedicks said. "Notwithstanding the decision's assuring language, at least in the short run, that coverage is only going to exist in the imagination of the male justices who comprised the majority."

Gedicks predicted a flood of lawsuits brought by for-profit businesses on the basis of religion, including some that do not want to serve, hire or house gays and lesbians.

pstack@sltrib.com

Twitter: @religiongal —

Mormon and Catholic stands on birth control

• LDS Church • "It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spirit children of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter. Married couples should also understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife."

Source: LDS Church's Handbook 2

• Catholic Church • In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae ("Human Life"), which reemphasized the church's teaching that it is intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence. Contraception is "any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" (Humanae Vitae 14). This includes sterilization, condoms and other barrier methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus (withdrawal method), the pill and other such methods.

Source: Catholic Answers http://www.catholic.com/tracts/birth-control