Fruits of Hobby Lobby
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air brings to us the news that the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby is already having an impact:
Late yesterday, the first fruits of the Hobby Lobby decision fell into the lap of EWTN, the Catholic satellite television station which has fought the HHS mandate into the appellate court. Today would have been the first day that EWTN would have to start paying ruinous fines for refusing to provide free contraception and sterilization in its health insurance coverage. Fortunately, the Eleventh Circuit granted a stay not long after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby:
In a resounding victory for religious freedom, today EWTN was granted last minute relief from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, one day before the world’s largest religious media network would be forced to violate its deeply help religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS on July 1.
After the district judge recently issued a disappointing ruling against the global Catholic media network, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an emergency appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. Pending that ruling, the Becket Fund urged the Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit to step in to protect EWTN from being forced to provide contraceptives and potentially life-terminating drugs and devices that violate its Catholic teachings. Thanks to the Eleventh Circuit’s decision today to grant temporary emergency relief to the Catholic network, EWTN can now freely practice what it preaches while it pursues its claims in court.
“On the same day as the Hobby Lobby decision, the Eleventh Circuit protected religious ministries challenging the same government mandate,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund. “It’s time for the government to stop fighting ministries like EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor, and start respecting religious freedom.”
“We are thankful that the Eleventh Circuit protected our right to religious freedom while we pursue our case in court,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We want to continue to practice the same Catholic faith that we preach to the world every day.”
The order itself is worth reading. The official unanimous order from the three-judge panel officially states that “we express no views on the ultimate merits of EWTN’s appeal in this case,” but that’s not true for Judge Pryor. In a 28-page concurrence, Pryor goes on at length as to why EWTN is likely to prevail on the merits of the case. And in doing so, Pryor takes particular aim at the so-called “accommodation” cited in Hobby Lobby and the arrogance of government instructing Catholic institutions on theology.
The Network has asserted, without dispute, that it “is prohibited by its religion from signing, submitting, or facilitating the transfer of the government-required certification” necessary to opt out of the mandate. The Network further asserts that, by requiring it to deliver Form 700 to the third-party administrator of its health insurance plan, the United States has forced the Network “to forego religious precepts” and instead, contrary to Catholic teachings, materially cooperate in evil. Midrash Sephardi, Inc. v. Town of Surfside, 366 F.3d 1214, 1227 (11th Cir. 2004). If it fails to deliver that form, the Network faces $12,775,000 in penalties a year. 26 U.S.C. § 4980D(b)( 1). If that is not a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion, then it is hard to imagine what would be. …
It is neither our duty nor the duty of the United States to tell the Network that its undisputed belief is flawed. See Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., No. 13-354, slip op. at 36-37 (U.S. June 30, 2014). The Supreme Court has instructed that “it is not for us to say that the line [drawn by the religious believer] was an unreasonable one. Courts should not undertake to dissect religious beliefs. . . .” Thomas v. Rev. Bd. of the Ind. Emp ‘t Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 714, 101 S. Ct. 1425, 1430 (1981). The United States flouts that instruction by treating an undisputed religious belief as a disputed question of law. But “it is not for us to say that [the Network's] religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.” Hobby Lobby, No. 13- 354, slip op. at 37. We must instead “determine whether the line drawn [by the Network] reflects an honest conviction, and there is no dispute that it does.” Id. at 37-38 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Pryor also takes aim at other appellate circuit decisions in similar cases denying injunctive relief in the basis of the accommodation, calling their reasoning “rubbish”, emphasis mine:
Go here to read the rest. Ah, for a lawyer the aftermath of the Hobby Lobby decision is the intellectual equivalent of a seven course meal. Bring on the next course!