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Editorial Calls on Supreme Court To Reject Organizations' 'Extravagant Interpretation' of RFRA

"It's vital that the [Supreme Court] reject the ... extravagant interpretation" of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141) used by organizations challenging the federal contraceptive coverage rules' accommodation for not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious and oppose contraception, a Los Angeles Times editorial states.

According to the editorial, eligible not-for-profits under the accommodation "need not provide or pay for contraceptive coverage for their female employees, but they must inform the government of their objections so coverage can be offered directly by an insurance company." However, "that compromise isn't good enough for the leaders of some of the organizations, who believe that merely signing a paper expressing their objections makes them complicit in sin," the editorial states.

The editorial notes that Justice Samuel Alito in the majority opinion for Burwell v. Hobby Lobby "praised" the accommodation, "noting that the government 'has already devised and implemented a system that seeks to respect the religious liberty of religious nonprofit corporations while ensuring that the employees of these entities have precisely the same access to all FDA-approved contraceptives as employees of companies whose owners have no religious objections to providing such coverage.'" However, according to the editorial, "the new challengers are seizing on another passage in which Alito said that courts 'have no business addressing' whether a religious belief is reasonable."

The editorial contends that the challengers essentially are "arguing that their conviction that signing a paper compromises their faith is itself a theological proposition that no earthly court may question." If the Supreme Court upholds this claim, RFRA "would be transformed into a blank check for obstructionism, and bipartisan support for the law -- already undermined by the Hobby Lobby decision, which found that 'closely held' businesses needn't pay for contraceptive coverage -- would continue to erode," the editorial continues. It concludes by noting that Congress in passing RFRA "provided for more protection for religious liberty than was guaranteed by the 1st Amendment," adding, "What Congress can pass, it can also repeal" (Los Angeles Times, 11/10).