Jewish community weighs in on both sides of Hobby Lobby ruling

( Nine Jewish Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s contested ruling in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, while Orthodox Jewish organizations applauded the decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Christian-owned crafts store chain Hobby Lobby cannot not be forced to provide its employees with contraception coverage. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Court ruled 5-4 that the Christian-owned crafts store chain could not be forced to provide its employees with contraception coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act because doing so would violate its religious liberty.

“The Affordable Care Act is designed to ensure women have access to quality, affordable health care, including contraception and family planning—services that are critical to a woman’s health care needs. In fact, an overwhelming majority of women use birth control or contraceptives at some point in their lives and the idea that they should be denied access to these basic health care services because their boss finds it religiously objectionable is ridiculous,” said U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).

The other Jewish Democrats blasting the decision were U.S. Rep.  Eliot Engel (D-NY), U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), U.S.  Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), and U.S. John Yarmuth (D-KY).

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU), however, praised the ruling.

“Today the Supreme Court actualized the fundamental purpose of the First Amendment’s guarantee of the ‘free exercise’ of religion. In essence, the Court’s ruling stands for the proposition that—even when the government seeks to implement valuable policy goals—it must do so without trampling upon the conscientious beliefs of American citizens, especially, as is the case here, when there are many other ways to meet the policy goals without infringing on religious liberty,” said Nathan Diament, the OU's executive director for public policy.

Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America's vice president for federal affairs and Washington director, said the Hobby Lobby decision "affirms that religious freedom is, indeed, a freedom of the highest order, which deserves broad and strong protection under our law."

"This protection should, as the court asserts, extend to businesses that are owned and operated by persons and families according to their sincerely-held religious beliefs," said Cohen. "No distinction is found or even contemplated in our Constitution or federal statute.  Americans of faith should not, and do not, forfeit their religious rights when they form family businesses and wish to make moral and ethical imperatives part of their corporate persona."

Posted on July 1, 2014 .