People could barely hear the breaking-news alerts of their phones amid the chants of crowds Monday morning outside the Supreme Court of the United States. Some were in suit and tie, others were holding signs and chanting “separate church and state, women must control their fate!”
Despite the heat, the crowds remained eager to heat the outcome of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case that would determine whether or not the federal government could force owners of for-profit companies to provide contraceptive care to employees, even if they object the requirement on religious grounds.
“Corporations are not individuals that can have individual social liberty,” Methodist Organization for Social Action Executive Director Chet Pritchett said. Pritchett, who was on the side of the plaintiff, added, “This is a slippery slope, and people of faith should have the liberty to make individual choices about their reproductive health.”
Other groups advocating for universal access to contraceptive care focused on how this ruling would affect religious liberty and influence in general.
“The idea that it even got this far if what’s most concerning.” Vice President of Government Relations and Media for Population Connection Ryan Dixon said in the crowds of protesters. “The idea that an organization could invoke religious beliefs. I mean this is basic health care. What other laws will they be able to get around now?”
Population Connection is an organization actively opposed to a growing American population.
Others believed the case was an argument for religious freedom, for both the company’s owners and the employees. Hannah Smith, a senior council member of Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, said the struggle for religious freedoms had been a long time coming. The Becket Fund represented Hobby Lobby in the case.
“For us, the biggest struggle has been helping the public understand that this is about religious freedom,” Smith told The Daily Caller while standing on the steps of the court Monday. “We have a client here with deep religious beliefs and they’ve fought to get abortion off their health care plan. This isn’t about abortion. This is about religious freedom.”
At 10:30 a.m., the court released its decision 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby, allowing private companies to determine whether or not to provide certain health care benefits to employees on the basis of the owners’ religious belief.
“Today is a landmark decision for religious freedom,” Hobby Lobby attorney Lori Widham said to the crowds outside the court immediately after the decision was announced.” The Supreme Court recognized that American families do not loose their fundamental rights when they open a family business. Today’s victory against this unjust mandate is important not just for families like the Greens [who own Hobby Lobby], but also for religious ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor, and for all Americans who seek to live according to their consciences.”
Even though Hobby Lobby won the case, not all on the losing side have given up hope.
“It’s disappointing,” Ariella Schnyder said as she protested the ruling along with the National Women’s Health Network. “But the decision is close enough that it’s not a huge blow. But this isn’t just about preventing pregnancy — it’s about health care. So when you rule out this, you’re not just ruling out abortion, you’re ruling out women’s health care.”
This was the Supreme Court’s first ruling on the Affordable Care Act provision since 2012, when it upheld the requirement for individuals to have to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
“What we found today is that religious liberty fits the law,” Casey Maddox, senior council for the Alliance for Defending Freedom, said.
Photography by Seth Richardson