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The reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision by Toledo's political and religious officials was as sharply divided along ideological lines as the members of the high court were on the ruling.
University of Toledo Law Professor Lee Strang said although the court sided with the arts-and-crafts retail chain, the 5-4 decision was not a “huge knock down home run,” for proponents of religious freedom for all corporations.
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“The ruling served as a litmus test for other companies run by owners with strong religious beliefs who were wondering would they have to shed those beliefs to operate in the marketplace,” he said.
Mr. Strang said Hobby Lobby, which has two stores in the Toledo area — one at 5329 Monroe St. in Toledo and the other at 10019 Fremont Pike in Perrysburg — was in many ways the perfect plaintiff for this case.
He said the closely held company run by a family has demonstrated in many ways the owners’ religious convictions.
“For example, the stores are not open on Sundays,” Mr. Strang said. He said this ruling would not apply to all companies.
He said he also believes the ruling may lead to a clash between companies that would like employees to share their religious beliefs and members of the gay and lesbian community.
“If a person applies to be a teacher at a Christian school, does this person have to sign a purity clause or sign a statement of faith? Both religious institutions and gay-rights advocates saw this as a test case,” he said.
The Toledo Catholic Diocese applauded the decision and pointed to a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize that Americans can continue to follow their faith when they run a family business,” Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said in a written statement.
That sentiment was echoed by both U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green).
“The government should not force citizens to violate their religious beliefs in order to operate a business, and Obamacare’s contraception mandate infringes upon religious liberties,” Mr. Portman said in a written statement.
“The freedom of religion is spelled out in the Bill of Rights and that was carried forward today,” Mr. Latta said.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo ) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) expressed disappointment.
“The lengths to which opponents of the Affordable Care Act will go to deny coverage have brought us to this point. I have no doubt our nation will adapt by creating plans that will allow consumers the coverage they seek, regardless of what any company or organization may do to discriminate against them,” Miss Kaptur said.
Senator Brown took issue with the court further extending protections usually reserved for individuals to corporations in this decision. “Health-care decisions should be made by women and their doctors — not by their bosses. Corporations are not people,” he said in a written statement.
Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at email@example.com or 419-724-6091.