Federal appeals court upholds HHS’s Hobby Lobby workaround. Again.

In a ruling issued earlier today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a claim from a coalition of Catholic organizations, which argued the Department of Health and Human Service’s workaround to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling violates their religious freedom.

The ruling was an affirmation of the appeals court’s earlier ruling on the same issue. Once again, Hobby Lobby prevents the government from requiring religious institutions from providing health insurance plans for their students and employees that cover contraception, but it doesn’t prevent the government from providing contraception to those students and employees.

In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that the government can’t require religious non-profits and closely-held corporations to provide health insurance plans that cover certain kinds of contraception if those entities have sincerely held religious beliefs banning the use of such contraception. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that organizations claiming such beliefs would need notify the government to officially declare their belief, at which point HHS would direct the relevant insurance company to provide the contraception coverage separately. As contraception is cost-neutral — pregnancy is way more expensive than IUDs — the separate coverage comes at no cost to the insurer or the religious organization.

As the court held, religious organizations are required to do nothing more than say to the government, “I don’t support contraceptive coverage and I’m not going to pay for it. You and my insurer figure out what to do from here.” That isn’t an undue burden on religious belief; that’s an affirmation of it. As the Court wrote in their opinion:

IUD, via Shutterstock

IUD, via Shutterstock

Hobby Lobby tells us, in sum, that the government cannot compel closely held companies with sincere religious objections to provide contraception coverage to their employees. But that issue is fundamentally different from the issue at the heart of this case—whether an entity’s decision not to provide such coverage by exercising an accommodation is, by itself, a violation of that entity’s religious beliefs. We upheld this accommodation against a RFRA challenge in
our initial opinion. Nothing in Hobby Lobby changes this analysis.

One would think that this would be an acceptable compromise. Religious organizations get their liberty to not provide health insurance plans that cover contraception, and students and employees get their contraception. Everyone wins, right?

Wrong. Religious organizations insisted that the requirement that they tell the government that they were entitled to not pay for plans covering contraception was a bridge too far, with one college going as far as to stop providing health insurance to its students altogether rather than comply with the rule. To them, this isn’t about the freedom to not provide access to contraception, this is about the freedom to actively restrict access to contraception.

And that isn’t a freedom protected by the First Amendment.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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42 Responses to “Federal appeals court upholds HHS’s Hobby Lobby workaround. Again.”

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    Isn’t it odd that filling out a form saying, “Ain’t gonna do it” is an undue, horrible, no-good, very bad burden on an institution, but forcing women to journey hundreds of miles for health care, and either wait three days or make the journey again, isn’t a burden?

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  4. The_Fixer says:

    Both Hobby Lobby and Citizen’s United effectively kill the concepts of equal representation and “one person, one vote.”

    I’m just wondering when they will float the idea that corporations should be able to cast a ballot? They’re probably working on their speeches right now…

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    Jon, I demand that we get our high-quality spammers back! :)

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  7. DoverBill says:

    In the past, I’ve been attempting to posit reasonable questions as to why anyone’s religion should matter one iota in a court of law.

    I’m sick of this shit… fuck all religions and the fanciful horse ya all rode in on.

    Not only that but please shove these rulings up your collective asses!

  8. Bruce says:

    Excellent, I agree whole heartedly

  9. Bruce says:

    Excellent, I agree whole heartedly

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  17. DoverBill says:

    That makes three of us.

  18. Indigo says:

    They would and it’d pass. Even so, there’d be a single payer and that much would be good. Another work-around would be devised because . . . double standard.

  19. BeccaM says:

    True…but I’m sure you’d realize that 100% of the GOPers and about 1/3 to 1/2 of the Dems would insist the Hyde Amendment be tacked on, along with whatever other misogynistic goodies they could cram in there.

  20. mhandrh says:

    Amazing isn’t it?

    In Egyptian myth:
    The god Taht announcing to the virgin Queen that she is about to become a mother.
    And the god Kneph (the holy spirit) mystically impregnatied the virgin by holding a cross to her mouth.
    In Greek mythology:
    Danae was said to have been impregnated by Zeus in the shape of a shower of gold which fell in her lap.
    Leda was admired by Zeus, who seduced her in the guise of a swan.
    Nemesis was the mother of Helen, and was also impregnated by Zeus in the guise of a swan.

    Today we find these tales humorous if not fascinating and interesting that people fervently believed the tales — yet, why are modern versions taken seriously?

  21. nicho says:

    The easy answer that everyone is ignoring is that we should have universal, single-payer healthcare provided by the government. Then, these pseudo-religious dickwads can shove it.

  22. Ty Morgan says:

    Hobby Lobby and Citizens United have to be in the top ten of the worst SCOTUS decisions EVER.

  23. BeccaM says:

    Hobby Lobby has no personally held beliefs, because it is a corporation — a business — not a person. Its owners, on the other hand, are indeed people. People obsessed with controlling the most intimate details of their employees’ lives.

    The truly appalling thing about the SCOTUS case was how Hobby Lobby’s owners’ beliefs were given primacy overriding those of their employees, as well as overriding legitimate public health concerns. Even worse, how their lawyers were permitted to submit to the court demonstrably wrong beliefs about how contraceptives work and why women use them, as supposed justification for objecting to employees having insurance-covered access to them.

  24. Indigo says:

    Yeah, I don’t get it either.

  25. Indigo says:

    Christianity was established by the Emperor Constantine as a vehicle for controlling an unruly public after a particularly nasty civil war. He did an impressive job of conning the Christicoli into accommodating his political policies, controlling their doctrinal thinking at the Council of Nicea, and very cleverly tricked them to abandon Jesus’ peace and tolerance teachings in exchange for the support of government to enforce their whimsical version of “salvation.” What the Emperor Constantine did was to enfeeble them into depending on government to support their imaginary teachings in exchange for their work in social control. They have not even yet recovered from that con job and persist in a structural hypocrisy which apparently they don’t notice. All they know is that they have a deep need for government support or they can’t survive. Impressive con job, Mr. Emperor Constantine. It’s well past time to expose the roots of their Olympian-Mythraic-pseudoHebraic-sociopolitical control balderdash..

  26. Nicholas A Kocal says:

    The Supreme Court majority made a partisan decision that violated the constitution with the “Hobby Lobby” decision. And Hobby Lobby’s personally held beliefs are to make as much money as possible and absolutely nothing to nothing to do with Christian values. I

  27. BeccaM says:

    Damned if I know. Also not sure what your source of confusion is, Bill.

  28. DoverBill says:

    This makes perfect sense until one substitutes the word Muslim for the word Christian.

    Then, everything gets fucked up as far as I can discern.

    Obviously, I must be missing something here?

  29. DoverBill says:

    Well… whodaya think invented the word hypocrite, fundamentalists?

  30. DoverBill says:


  31. BeccaM says:

    Yeah, all the Duggars with two X chromosomes. Excised a large part of their brains, too — the parts usually involved with self-esteem and critical thinking.

  32. BeccaM says:

    Sure, I can help!

    All of those are defined in America today as “Whatever unprovable nonsense a fundamentalist Christian wants to claim God told them to do or believe, even when the exercise of those beliefs infringes on the civil rights of others. No other religions or those who lack religious beliefs need bother asking for similar status or accommodations because they will be rejected out-of-hand.”

  33. DoverBill says:

    Surely, by now, at least one on them musta been struck blind?

  34. DoverBill says:

    “… if those entities have sincerely held religious beliefs….

    Anyone know where I can find the legal definition of:

    A belief
    A religious belief
    A deeply held religious belief
    A sincerely held deeply religious belief
    My belief that all religious beliefs are bullshit!

    And what is the litmus test used for determining exactly who falls where and why it should make a difference one way or a fuckin’ another in a court of law?

    Yo, Scalia… can ya here me now?

  35. BeccaM says:

    Among the god-bothering wingnuts, it is appallingly common to find examples of (1) absolute 100% opposition to abortion and contraceptives (for other people only, of course), (2) 100% opposition to any notion of a right to healthcare, even for pregnant women or their children, combined with (3) total support for the death penalty and a belief that not enough prisoners are being executed.

    These are the people who, apparently lacking in both a sense of self-examination and irony, also label themselves “Pro-Life.”

  36. BeccaM says:

    Finally: a short anecdote from someone who met the family at a book signing.

    “Weird little story. Met them (the Duggars) at a book signing in TN maybe a year or two ago. Was wearing a t-shirt with a t-rex on it. The line moved at a pretty quick pace, but when I went through one of the boys (a teenager) asked me why I had “dragons” on my clothes.”


    The story about how Jim Bob Duggar dealt with his masturbating sons is also a hoot. Sad, but a hoot nonetheless.

  37. Doug105 says:


  38. Doug105 says:


  39. BeccaM says:

    I’ve said it several times now: The Christianist god-botherers define their religious freedom as being allowed to violate the civil rights of others.

    And let’s be clear here: Companies do not have religious beliefs. The owners of those companies do. And what they’re demanding is the right to impose their personal beliefs and religious practices on their employees.

  40. Doug105 says:


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