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Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion in the religious freedom case. / Stephan Savoia, AP

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court's ruling Monday on religious exemptions from President Obama's health care law was narrowly limited, according to its authors -- or wildly expansive, according to dissenters. Herewith, some excerpts:

From Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion:

"A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends. ? Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies."

"For-profit corporations, with ownership approval, support a wide variety of charitable causes, and it is not at all uncommon for such corporations to further humanitarian and other altruistic objectives. ? If for-profit corporations may pursue such worthy objectives, there is no apparent reason why they may not further religious objectives as well."

"As we have noted, the Hahns and Greens have a sincere religious belief that life begins at conception. ? By requiring the Hahns and Greens and their companies to arrange for such coverage, the (Health and Human Services Department) mandate demands that they engage in conduct that seriously violates their religious beliefs."

"Because the contraceptive mandate forces them to pay an enormous sum of money-as much as $475 million per year in the case of Hobby Lobby - if they insist on providing insurance coverage in accordance with their religious beliefs, the mandate clearly imposes a substantial burden on those beliefs."

"HHS and the principal dissent argue that a ruling in favor of the objecting parties in these cases will lead to a flood of religious objections regarding a wide variety of medical procedures and drugs, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions, but HHS has made no effort to substantiate this prediction."

"Under HHS's view, (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) would permit the Government to require all employers to provide coverage for any medical procedure allowed by law in the jurisdiction in question - for instance, third-trimester abortions or assisted suicide."

"Our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate. Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer's religious beliefs."

From Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent:

"The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would override significant interests of the corporations' employees and covered dependents. It would deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage that the ACA would otherwise secure."

"Until this litigation, no decision of this court recognized a for-profit corporation's qualification for a religious exception from a generally applicable law. ? The absence of such precedent is just what one would expect, for the exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial legal entities."

"The court's determination that RFRA extends to for-profit corporations is bound to have untoward effects. Although the court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private. Little doubt that RFRA claims will proliferate."

"The court's reasoning appears to permit commercial enterprises like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga to exclude from their group health plans all forms of contraceptives."

"Suppose an employer's sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage ? or according women equal pay for substantially similar work?"

"No doubt the Greens and Hahns and all who share their beliefs may decline to acquire for themselves the contraceptives in question. But that choice may not be imposed on employees who hold other beliefs. Working for Hobby Lobby or Conestoga, in other words, should not deprive employees of the preventive care available to workers at the shop next door."

"Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be perceived as favoring one religion over another, the very risk the Establishment Clause was designed to preclude. The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield."



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Excerpts from the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling

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