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Diament had a much different perspective on the law.
“RFRA is about keeping the government from inhibiting people’s practice,” he said in an interview. “It doesn’t mean employees can have their employers’ religion imposed upon them, it means the government can’t force employers to violate religious beliefs.”
But even Jewish groups that are critical of the ruling are standing by RFRA. Nancy Kaufman, the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, said the slippery slope she now feared was in the ruling, not the law.
“RFRA was not a mistake because it was designed to help protect individual people’s religious freedom -– we worked hard for its passage,” she said in an email to JTA. “The problem is that the court has granted closely held corporations (without really defining what that is) religious freedom even when it means that it would take away religious liberty from their individual workers who are ‘people’.”
Rabbi Abba Cohen, the Washington director of Agudath Israel of America, another Orthodox group that sided with the two corporations in the case, applauded the court for balancing the freedoms of employers and employees.
“We are all too familiar with the problem from the perspective of the employee, who often must choose between his religious beliefs and his livelihood,” he said in a statement. “But the problem is no less compelling from the employer’s point of view, where that Hobson’s choice may likewise force him or her to sacrifice either his religion or his business.”
Liberal Jewish groups said the decision’s broader implications were troubling and could lead to chaotic menus of what might and might not be available to employees.
“While the majority’s assertion that the ruling is limited solely to the contraception mandate is worth noting, we are troubled that it may be used by corporations seeking to impose other religious beliefs on employees,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.
Alito in his decision took pains to confine the ruling to contraceptive coverage.
“This decision concerns only the contraception mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-covered mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs,” he wrote.