Utah officials react to Hobby Lobby ruling

Posted at 9:29 PM, Jun 30, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- Here in Utah, Planned Parenthood is blasting the Supreme Court's decision to give companies like Hobby Lobby the power to say ‘no’ and legal analysts are clarifying what the ruling actually means.

Could it open the door for other businesses to do the same thing? Some say yes.

"I'm pretty discouraged," said Karrie Galloway, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. "Here we are in 2014 and an employer can decide whether their employees can have access to contraception through their health care benefits regardless of whether it's good public health or not."

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of religious freedoms for businesses -- a first, according to legal analyst Greg Skordas.

"Religious groups can already opt out of certain provisions based on their religious standing.  Hobby Lobby was a little different because they're a corporation, a for-profit organization.  We haven't historically provided them with those kind of personal benefits," Skordas said.

Skordas said the case was not based on the constitution.

"To say this is a First amendment case is wrong," he explains.

Some Utah groups are applauding the high court's decision.

John C. Wester, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, said he’s pleased.

"I am grateful to the Justices for ensuring that religious freedom and rights of conscience remain cornerstones of our democracy," Wester said.

It was the same sentiment from the conservative think tank Sutherland Institute.

"The Supreme Court has done the right thing," they say.

Still, some believe there could be unintended consequences.

"It opens up a firestorm of employers working on their own personal religious beliefs," Galloway said.

"Other corporations are going to jump in and take advantage of this I assume and say, ‘well wait a minute, our corporation doesn't like this or our fundamental founders of our corporation doesn't like that.’  Based on that, we should be able to opt out of provisions of Obamacare also and get away from that for our employees," Skordas said.

It's still unclear what the long-term implications will be, if any.

Fox 13 reached out to Utah's congressional delegation and Sen. Orrin Hatch is applauding the Supreme Court's ruling. Congressman Rob Bishop is also pleased.

Hatch released the following statement:

 “I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to protect the religious freedom of all Americans, both individually and collectively. The notion that religious freedom belongs only to some, and even then only in private, defies our nation's traditions, our laws, and our Constitution. And as the Supreme Court rightfully said today, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could not have been clearer in saying religious liberty of all Americans must be equally protected and not unnecessarily burdened. That’s why RFRA passed Congress overwhelmingly more than 20 years ago, and why it was so appalling when the Obama administration ignored the rights of American’s and violated the law by adopting this mandate. While the Obama Administration and its allies have tried to make this simply a dispute over birth control, the Supreme Court agreed that the real issue is whether the Obama administration can ignore the law and, in doing so, trample religious freedom.Today’s decision reaffirms the supremacy of our nation’s laws and rights over President Obama’s divisive agenda.”

Congressman Bishop released the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court's decision:

 “Religious freedom is a fundamental constitutional right and I am very pleased by the Supreme Court’s decision to continue to protect that right. The Obama Administration’s attempt to force employers to pay for things that they may oppose on religious or moral grounds was unacceptable, and I’m glad that we have some resolution on this matter."

Sutherland Institute issued the following statement today in reaction to the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case:

"The Supreme Court has done the right thing.

No one should have to choose between acting on their religious beliefs or paying crippling fines to the government, including business owners. The court has recognized the importance of the free exercise of religion, protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is good news for the principles of religious liberty and limited government.

However, supporters of religious freedom can’t let up their guard. Four justices would have allowed the government to force private companies to act against their beliefs. Today’s decision is a welcome reprieve but no reason to relax our vigilance in protecting religious liberty. Utah can help by passing comprehensive state religious liberty protections as soon as possible."

John C. Wester, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, released the following statement:

"As Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, I am pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. In its ruling, the Supreme Court reaffirmed vital constitutional protections for our individual right to fully form our own conscience.

"The narrow ruling recognizes that privately held companies are run by individuals with deeply held religious beliefs. It reflects the reality that certain forms of so-called contraception are really abortifacients, designed not to prevent conception, but to end life. As such, the Court’s decision respects the sanctity of an individual’s well-formed conscience by recognizing the undue burden the contraception mandate places on employers who believe in the dignity and sacredness of human life. The ruling does not allow an employer to impose a point of view on others, but it does protect the employer from having to act against his or her religious belief.

"I am grateful to the justices for ensuring that religious freedom and rights of conscience remain cornerstones of our democracy."