Catholic Free Press

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Supreme Court ruling called ‘great victory’

Posted By July 3, 2014 | 12:48 pm | Lead Story #2

By Tanya Connor

Members of the Worcester Diocese, affected or not by Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, commented about it this week. There was praise for the decision, and also concern about what it did not address and questions still to be answered.
“It’s certainly a great victory,” said Allison LeDoux, director of the Respect Life and Marriage and Family offices, who has been coordinating the Diocese’s public opposition to the HHS mandate, including the Fortnight for Freedom which concludes today. “It’s a landmark ruling because it upholds the rights of conscience that we’ve been working so hard to maintain and fight for.”
“I think the fact that they (the Supreme Court) upheld the Religious Freedom Restoration Act … is very significant, because it upholds that inherent right of all people to act and run their businesses according to their rightly formed consciences,” Mrs. LeDoux said. “The government has been trying very deliberately to squelch that right. … We have this moral obligation to live what we believe.”
The court decided in favor of family-owned, for-profit businesses which object on religious grounds to paying for contraceptives for their employees through their health insurance plans.
Coverage of contraceptives, including abortifacients, and sterilizations, all of which the Catholic Church opposes, was required by the HHS mandate. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed and finalized the mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.
Some for-profit businesses, and non-profit entities that did not qualify for an exemption from the mandate, sued the government  for requiring them to go against their consciences or pay large fines.
Monday the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of cases brought by Hobby Lobby (a company owned by evangelical Christians) and Conestoga Wood Specialties (owned by Mennonites).
“The Diocese of Worcester applauds the decision … in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby,” said a statement posted on the diocesan website “In the court’s decision, Justice Samuel Alito wrote ‘Under the standard that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.’”
Vic Melfa, chief executive officer of The Training Associates in Westborough, was on vacation but sent an email message to his office Monday: “We are so happy with the Supreme Court’s decision today that supports our First Amendment rights.”
Mr. Melfa, a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Westborough, is an active Catholic businessman who has been a vocal on this issue.
He said it is too soon to decide how his company will respond to the Supreme Court ruling but that he expects changes in insurance plans which will give businesses various options.
John Lauring, president of Lauring Construction Co. Inc. of Worcester, said they needed to provide medical insurance for their 20 to 30 employees; they feel they should do that and always have. So they renewed their contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield May 1, despite the fact that the plan included contraceptives.
Given the Supreme Court decision, they will need to talk to their insurance representative, the member of Christ the King Parish in Worcester said.
“My hope and gut feeling is we’re getting less, so we should pay less,” he said of a future insurance plan without contraceptives. If Blue Cross Blue Shield does not agree to give them the option of excluding contraceptive coverage, they will have to switch insurance companies, he said.
“I think that’s basically our only option,” he said. “At least we have an option. Before, we didn’t.”
David Barbale, of St. Ann Parish in North Oxford, said the ruling does not affect his business because he does not have employees, just subcontractors. He is the owner of David Barbale Remodeling in Charlton.
“I’m happy that happened,” he said of the ruling. “That was so unconstitutional and unethical,” he said of the HHS mandate.
“I feel God answered a prayer,” said Denise Boucher-Garofoli, owner of Boucher’s Good Books in Worcester. “I believe in the power of prayer.”
She spoke of limits on religious freedom, including prohibitions against prayer and Nativity sets in public schools.
“They don’t want you to say, ‘Merry Christmas,’” she added. “It’s unfortunate a minority can overrule the majority because it’s politically correct. The pope is a wonderful example of not being politically correct.
“Now I think Catholics realize they can win. You have to stand up for what you believe in. It doesn’t have to be a riot or a protest. We’re not throwing anything down anyone’s throats.”
She said the ruling does not affect her small business because she and the woman who works for her are each covered by their husband’s insurance, and her son, who works part-time, also has insurance from elsewhere.
Non-profit organizations will have to wait for the next Supreme Court session to take up cases that could affect them.
“It does not affect the college, because the case dealt with for-profit corporations,” Francesco Cesareo, president of Assumption College, said of the ruling. “But it is a step in the right direction. We know there are several cases going through the court system on behalf of Catholic institutions. So I think there’s hope for institutions like us.”
He said he hoped the ruling strengthens and revivifies Catholic institutions in their quest not to be subject to the mandate.
“What led David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby, to refuse to comply with the HHS mandate?” Dr. John S. Howland, of St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge, asked in an e-mail response to The Catholic Free Press. “How many among us would do the same if we were in his place?”
He said Mr. Green objected to abortifacient contraceptives, which the Catholic Church opposes along with other contraceptives. But in this case, the Church is focusing primarily on religious liberty, he said.
Dr. Howland, a family physician in his own practice in Southbridge, said the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t affect him directly, as he has only two employees and they are beyond child-bearing years.
He said the decision is a victory for religious liberty, but also a cause for concern: it does not apply to non-profit entities such as Catholic hospitals and it was a narrow victory (a 5-4 vote). And, he said, “We are still losing the battle for hearts and minds on the underlying issue, the immorality of contraception. Even amongst members of the Church how many of us dissent and contracept?”
He said he was a physician before he became a Catholic, and part of his conversion process was studying the Church’s teaching on contraception.
“At first I wanted to do what many do and say, ‘No, I just can’t accept what the Church says about birth control,’” he said. “But as I studied the issue with the help of God’s grace, I began to appreciate the wisdom and beauty of the Church’s teaching.
“As we think about these issues all of us might ask the question, ‘If I were David Green, would I have fought the HHS mandate?’”