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 position that the federal law protecting religious freedom may not be claimed by owners of corporations or for-profit businesses.
The case before the high court concerns the legal validity of the requirement in the Obamacare law that for-profit corporations must pay for their employees’ insurance coverage for contraception services. The amicus curiae brief was written by Nathan Lewin, a leading constitutional law expert 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 brief informed the court that though “the Jewish faith does not prohibit the financing of contraception,” the legal position taken by the administration threatens to curtail religious observances by American Jews inasmuch as Jewish law does not distinguish between and among different forms of business ownership.
Describing the recent experience of seven Brooklyn merchants who, out of religious conviction, posted signs in their stores barring immodest dress, the brief noted that it made no difference to their religious observance whether the businesses were or were not operated as corporations.
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 Congregation of America.
In a statement Mr. Lewin said, “It is important to convey to the Supreme Court that a bad decision in these cases could have a very harmful effect on the religious observances of the American Jewish community. A unified Orthodox response to the threat was essential.”
We heartily agree.