kathleen sebelius

Awaiting Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Ruling, Public Favors Contraception Mandate

Supporters and opponents of ACA’s contraception mandate rallied outside the Supreme Court, March 25. RNS photos by Adelle Banks.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to finally issue its ruling this week in the highly anticipated case of the craft companies vs. Obamacare.

Technically, it’s Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a showdown over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate. The core legal question is whether a private company can have religious rights.

But to the general public, this is seen as a showdown between employers — the evangelical Green family behind Hobby Lobby and the Mennonite Hahn familythat owns the Conestoga cabinet company — and the employees’ personal reproductive choices under their insurance.

While conservatives have cast the battle as one for religious freedom, the general public may see it as a showdown over personal health choices.

Hobby Lobby's Steve Green Stands on Faith Against Obamacare Mandate

Steve Green and his wife, Jackie, at a surprise 40th birthday party for Steve. Photo courtesy of Green family/RNS

Once Steve Green sets his path, there’s no turning back.

Not when he and his high school girlfriend, Jackie, totaled their cars playing chicken. “No one turned off,” he said, recalling how he aimed right at her and she just kept coming. A year later, she married him.

Not when he saw no point in college, going directly into his family’s Hobby Lobby craft store business. Green, now 50, rose up from assembling picture frames for “bubble gum money” at age 7 through every job, including cleaning toilets, to president of the $3.3 billion national chain, one of the nation’s largest private companies.

And certainly not now when, he says, the U.S. government is challenging his unshakeable Christian faith and his religious liberty.

What’s Abortifacient? Disputes Over Birth Control Fuel Obamacare Fight

Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby, speaks at the Religion Newswriters Association Conference. RNS photo by Sally Morrow.

Conception. Pregnancy. Abortion. Abortifacient.

Those words today are in a rhetorical swamp where contesting religious, medical, and political views muddy understanding. And soon the U.S. Supreme Court will wade in.

On March 25, it will hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s provision that employers must provide insurance coverage with no co-pays for contraception.

Catholic Hospitals Reject Obama’s Birth Control Compromise

RNS photo courtesy Pete Souza / The White House

President Barack Obama talks with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. RNS photo courtesy Pete Souza / The White House

In an unexpected blow to the Obama administration and a major boon for America's Catholic bishops, the influential Catholic Health Association on June 15 rejected White House proposals aimed at easing faith-based objections to the contraception mandate.

“The more we learn, the more it appears that the … approaches for both insured and self-insured plans would be unduly cumbersome and would be unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other Church ministries,” Sister Carol Keehan and leaders of the CHA said in a five-page response to the Department of Health and Human Services.

D.C. Archdiocese, Georgetown University Spar Over Kathleen Sebelius Speech

RNS photo courtesy The Department of Labor/Flickr

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a press briefing. RNS photo courtesy The Department of Labor/Flickr

Tensions between the Archdiocese of Washington and Georgetown University are escalating ahead of an address on Friday (May 18) by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a conflict that is becoming a microcosm of the political battles raging inside the Catholic Church.

Sebelius, a Catholic whose support for abortion rights and President Obama’s contraception insurance mandate has infuriated bishops and conservative Catholics, was chosen last fall by students at Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute to deliver a speech at the school’s annual awards ceremony on commencement weekend.

The event will be one of Georgetown’s 18 awards programs this weekend – there are 10 other official commencement ceremonies – and Sebelius will not receive an honorary degree.

Conservative Catholics Blast Upcoming Appearance by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Georgetown University

Official Department of Labor Photograph

Kathleen Sebelius, . RNS photo courtesy United States Department of Labor/Flickr. Official Department of Labor Photograph

Last month liberal Catholics were upset over House Republican budget chief Paul Ryan using a Georgetown University platform to defend his hard-line fiscal plan as a natural outgrowth of his Catholic faith. Dozens of Georgetown faculty and administrators wrote a letter welcoming Ryan but blasting his understanding of Catholic teaching and asking him to explain his views during his talk at the university’s Public Policy Institute.

Now it is the conservatives’ turn: The flagship Jesuit university has announced that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic who has angered conservatives and bishops for overseeing the Obama administration’s contraception insurance mandate and other controversial policies, will address the policy institute's graduating class at commencement on May 18.