HHS Mandate, Religious Freedom

COLPA Files Amicus Brief That Seeks to Protect Religious Observance


Seven national Orthodox Jewish organizations joined a friend-of-the-court brief filed on January 28 in the Supreme Court of the United States by the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (“COLPA”) opposing the federal government’s legal position that the federal law protecting religious freedom may not be claimed by owners of corporations or for-profit businesses. The amicus curiae brief was written by Nathan Lewin, who has argued 28 cases in the Supreme Court and teaches a seminar on religious minorities in Supreme Court litigation at Columbia Law School.

The amicus brief informed the Court that Orthodox Jewish business-owners have identical religious observances whether their businesses are operated by family-owned corporations or as proprietorships or partnerships. The brief cited four modern halachic authorities who have declared that a corporation is not recognized by Jewish Law as a legal person, and businesses run by corporations are treated by Jewish Law as if they were owned by a partnership. The brief described the recent experience of seven Williamsburg merchants who, out of religious conviction, posted signs in their stores barring immodest dress, and noted that it made no difference to their religious observance whether the businesses were or were not operated as corporations.

The brief also described a case that had been brought against a Sabbath-observing medical clinic in Spring Valley and Monsey because the clinic was closed on Saturdays. The response of the religiously observant owners that religious observance required closing on Shabbat resulted in dismissal of the complaint. The amicus brief noted that the same result should follow whether it was a non-profit or a for-profit clinic.

The Orthodox Jewish organizations that joined in COLPA’s brief were Agudas Harabbanim, Agudath Israel of America, National Council of Young Israel. Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbinical Council of America, Torah Umesorah, and The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. The cases in which the brief was filed are Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, No. 13-354, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, No. 13-356. They concern the legal validity of the requirement in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that corporate for-profit employers must pay for their employees’ insurance coverage for contraceptive services. Oral argument in these cases is scheduled for March 25, 2014. Although the brief declares that “the Jewish faith does not prohibit the financing of contraception,” it warns that the legal position taken by the Administration threatens to curtail religious observances by American Jews.

Mr. Lewin said, “It is important to convey to the Supreme Court that a bad decision in these cases could have a very harmful affect on the religious observances of the American Jewish community. A unified Orthodox response to this threat was essential.”

Article Source: http://jewishvoiceny.com/

Written by : Nathan Lewin

Leave a Reply