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July 13 - 26, 2014

Local Catholics, groups cheer court decision

By Michelle Martin

STAFF WRITER

Father Thomas Loya, pastor of Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Parish in Homer Glen, speaks to people gathered in Federal Plaza on June 30 to celebrate Hobby Lobby's victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 ruling, the high court struck down the HHS mandate as applied to businesses such as Hobby Lobby, restoring to business owners the religious freedom protections they are guaranteed under the First Amendment.(Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Dr. Barbara Bellar, J.D., from Chicago sings with other rally participants. (Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

(Right) Joseph M. Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League, listens to rally speakers. (Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Emily Zender, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, speaks during the rally. The Supreme Court decision applied narrowly to the suits brought by Oklahoma-based craft store chain Hobby Lobby and Pennsylvania-based Conestoga Wood Specialties and stated the government cannot compel closely held companies whose owners have religious objections to pay for contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Barb Finn-Figliulo, a parishioner at St. Mary Church in Mokena, Ill., listens as prayers are said to celebrate Hobby Lobby's victory in the Supreme Court. (Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Attorney John Mauck prays during the rally in Federal Plaza. (Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Christopher Yep speaks during the June 30 rally. Yeps' family-owned Oak Brook-based Triune Health sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Illinois Department of Insurance in an attempt to stop the mandate requiring that they supply employee health insurance coverage for abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilizations. Triune Health received a temporary injunction allowing them to not provide contraceptive coverage until their cases were settled, and their cases were more or less on hold while they waited for the Supreme Court to rule. (Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 that for-profit companies whose owners have religious objections to contraception cannot be compelled to pay for contraceptive coverage for their female employees, Christopher and Mary Anne Yep cheered.

“It’s a victory for the whole country,” Mary Anne Yep said.

“We’re very excited to see this decision that came down and to see things going in a positive direction,” Christopher Yep said.

The Yeps’ Oak Brook-based Triune Health sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Illinois Department of Insurance in an attempt to stop the mandate requiring that they supply employee health insurance coverage for abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilizations.

The Yeps weren’t together to celebrate when the Supreme Court’s decision came down. Christopher Yep, Triune’s president and CEO, was in Chicago, where he spoke at a quickly organized religious freedom rally at Federal Plaza. Mary Anne Yep, the vice president and chief personnel officer, was on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

But the Yeps said they don’t yet feel secure. The Supreme Court decision applied narrowly to the suits brought by Oklahoma-based craft store chain Hobby Lobby and Pennsylvania-based Conestoga Wood Specialties. The language of the 5-4 decision, which says the government cannot compel closely held companies whose owners have religious objections to pay for contraceptive coverage, would seem to apply to companies like Triune and Ozinga, a Mokena, Ill.-based concrete and building materials company.

Both companies had sued the government, protesting a provision of the federal health care law that requires employer-provided health coverage to include contraception and sterilization at no added cost to the employee, saying that paying for such coverage violates the owners’ religious beliefs. Both received temporary injunctions allowing them to not provide contraceptive coverage until their cases were settled, and their cases were more or less on hold while they waited for the Supreme Court to rule.

The decision was based on the 1994 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Yeps are faith-filled Catholics who shopped around for insurance providers when they started their company to make sure the coverage they provided would not violate their faith. Neither Hobby Lobby nor Conestoga Wood have Catholic owners.

Christopher Yep said that could be one way the government will seek to separate those cases from Triune Health’s case. Not all religious objections are the same, and some of the objectors are willing to provide coverage for some services that would be forbidden by the church.

“The battle is not over,” Christopher Yep said. “There are still things we need to work on. We’re trying to anticipate how the government will respond.”

Robert Gilligan, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said he expects that the Hobby Lobby decision will provide enough of a precedent for companies like Triune to prevail.

A statement the conference released the morning the ruling came out said, “We are elated the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes and affirms the importance of religious freedom in the practice of business. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties have scored an important victory regarding religious conscience that we hope portends a triumph for religious-based and nonprofit employers pursuing similar lawsuits.”

The next big battle will be that waged by not-for-profit religious entities, such as universities and hospitals. The Department of Health and Human Services offered an accommodation to them, under which they would not have to pay for the services they object to, although their employees would still be able to access them. Several groups have sued, saying the accommodation is insufficient because they would still be complicit in providing coverage for services they believe to be immoral.

“I think in a year we’ll all be sitting here looking for a ruling on the Little Sisters of the Poor case,” Gilligan said.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are a Catholic women’s religious order that operates nursing homes for poor elderly people of any religion. They are among the not-for- profit religious entities that have sued the government. The order operates two homes in the Archdiocese of Chicago.