A Washington Times (well, that is kind of mainstream!) article by Tom Howell, Jr., provides a good summary of progress in the legal battles against the HHS mandate. As the Howell notes,
Religiously affiliated charities and schools immediately objected to the regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, as did some devout business owners, and more than 40 challenges are winding their way through the courts, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is helping with many of the lawsuits.
None of the courts has reached a decision on the merits of the cases, but the key question with which judges appear to be grappling is whether a corporation other than a church can be said to “exercise” religion and enjoy constitutional protections for freedom of worship.
In a summary of the cases, Howell notes,
In court papers, business owners say they try to run their businesses in line with the tenets of their faiths. Their most common — and, many say, strongest — argument is that the mandate violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, aimed at preventing laws that substantially undercut an individual’s free exercise of religion. The analysis gets tricky, however, when business owners equate themselves and their personal principles with their rights as businesses, Mr. Jost (Washington and Lee University School of Law) said.
“Corporations exist for a reason,” he said. “They clearly wouldn’t be saying that if the corporation was being sued for a tort.”
Having said that, “I don’t see this as an easy case at all,” Mr. Jost added. “And that’s evidenced by the fact that the courts have been all over the place.”
Howell also noted the distinctions being made between secular employers, and for-profit employers that have a clear religious purpose, such as Christian book publishers.
Their involvement (referring to two Christian book publishers) raises the question of whether corporations with clear religious bents have stronger cases than, say, a general contractor. The injunction granted by District Judge Reggie Walton applied only to Tyndale.
Mr. Jost said it is a complex question that the court may have to sort out among the cases from for-profit entities, since opting to work for a corporation whose owners have deeply held beliefs is less apparent than going to work for a hospital or school with a religious affiliation.
“I do that with my eyes open,” he said of the latter case, “and I realize there’s going to be a crucifix in my classroom or something like that.”
It’s good to see a balanced general summary of the current state of affairs in the HHS mandate battles in the mainstream media.