CFI Tells Supreme Court: Hobby Lobby Religious Exemption Would Harm Workers, Violate Constitution

For Immediate Release: January 28, 2014
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

Secular Humanist Group: Employers Must Not Be Allowed To Impose Their Religious Beliefs on Employees

Allowing employers such as Hobby Lobby to use their owners’ religious beliefs as a means of denying employees contraceptive coverage would violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, according to the secular humanist organization the Center for Inquiry (CFI). In an amicus brief to be filed today with the Supreme Court, CFI argues that such an exception would unfairly place a significant burden on employees, making their health coverage dependent on the religious beliefs of their employer.

In the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al., CFI argues that granting employers an exemption to their legal requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to cover contraceptive services would place an undue burden on employees, who would then have no recourse but to pay for such services on their own, which for many women could be as much as $1000 per year. The ACA entitles employees to this coverage, mandating that employers provide it, and in seeking a special exception based on the owner’s religion, Hobby Lobby and similarly situated employers are effectively imposing their religious preferences and practices on their employees. Granting these employers a religious exemption would be a clear violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

CFI also argues that the contraceptive mandate places no religious burden on employers in the first place. “The burden on Hobby Lobby and these other companies is nonexistent,” said CFI’s legal director, attorney Nicholas Little. “Health care benefits are part of an employee’s compensation, so employers who object to employees’ use of health care benefits to obtain contraception are no more burdened than a Mormon employer whose workers use their salary to buy coffee.”

Added Little, “We want to make clear to the justices that the people who work for these businesses have a legal right to this coverage. Trampling on those rights is a blatant imposition of one person’s religious beliefs on others. It’s simply not right, and it’s certainly not constitutional.”

The amicus brief was written by Little; attorney Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI; and Edward Tabash, a prominent lawyer and Chair of CFI. Tabash serves as the counsel of record for this brief, which can be downloaded as a PDF here.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at