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The implications of the Hobby Lobby ruling for religious freedom and health care

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July 1 at 6:46 PM

Congress should not narrow the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, as the July 1 editorial “After ‘Hobby Lobby’ ” suggested.

The First Amendment’s guarantee of the “free exercise” of religion is precisely to prevent the government from imposing its views on Americans of faith, even when in their workplace, absent the most compelling need to do so. That’s why a virtually unanimous Congress enacted the RFRA and President Bill Clinton signed it.

As the high court’s majority pointed out, there are many other ways the Obama administration can ensure women have widespread access to contraceptives and other health services without an infringement on the conscientious beliefs of business owners. If Congress should act, it should do so without touching RFRA, and follow those paths to provide women with the health services at issue.

The positions of religious minorities and dissenters are often unpopular, but they deserve constitutional protection.

Nathan J. Diament, Washington

The writer is executive director for public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is being described as a limited ruling, but it could have a devastating impact on women at risk of developing ovarian cancer. Taking oral contraceptives for five or more years can cut a woman’s risk of this deadly disease in half. The decision could put one of the most effective options for cancer prevention out of reach for women who cannot afford to pay for contraceptive pills.

We believe a woman should be able to decide, with her doctors, what steps she will take to reduce her risk of ovarian cancer. Whether that includes oral contraceptives is not her boss’s business. Sadly, this decision allows as much as 90 percent of corporations — those that are “closely held” — to limit employees’ access to contraceptives.

We are dismayed that a woman’s ability to reduce her risk of ovarian cancer now depends on her employer’s religious beliefs.

Calaneet Balas, Washington

The writer is chief executive of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

The silver lining in the Supreme Court’s decision on the contraception coverage mandate is that perhaps it will move us one step closer to single-payer health care. The decision points to the inherent problems with employer-based health insurance.

Expanding corporate personhood rights to include religious freedom, however limited by this particular decision, promises lawsuits testing the boundaries of corporate religious freedom. As a practical matter, it no longer will be enough for job seekers in our recovering labor market to assess the benefits packages offered by their prospective employer; they will need to ferret out the employer’s religious beliefs pertaining to the cause, prevention or treatment of any number of health conditions, whether they be immunizations or HIV/AIDS.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., however, pointed to a potential solution in his majority decision: The government could step in and provide the coverage. If the government is going to step in to cover every condition or insurance benefit to which an employer objects, why not simplify things and implement single payer?

Jennifer Moon, Bellingham, Wash.

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