by Danielle DiQuattro
Hannah Smith, Senior Counsel of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, spoke to a room full of conservative women at CBLPI’s Conservative Women’s Network on Friday, June 24th, at The Heritage Foundation.
“Our founding fathers wanted to be different from Europe and allow plurality,” Hannah Smith said in explaining the importance of defending this right of religious freedom. She, however, continued to say that she did not want to be “gloom and doom” about the attack on religious liberty in America. Her approach led to the whole event having a positive and optimistic tone. To explain why she has this optimism, Hannah went into detail about two cases she won during her time with The Becket Fund.
The first case she explained to the audience was Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Hannah expressed how David and Barbara Green founded Hobby Lobby in order to run it according to their deeply found religious beliefs. These religious beliefs moved the Greens to have their employees starting salaries be almost twice as much as minimum wage, to not have the stores open on Sundays, and to provide employees with very generous health care plans.
Despite the very inclusive plans Hobby Lobby employees were given, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), after the passing of the Affordable Care Act, did not think this plan was inclusive enough. The HHS was requiring Hobby Lobby to provide employees with health care plans that covered abortions pills, despite the fact that such a provision would force the Greens to violate their religious beliefs. Because of this, Hobby Lobby, represented by Hannah and the Becket Fund, went into a court battle with the HHS to fight this violation of their First Amendment right. The case was won in favor of religious liberty and Hobby Lobby.
Hannah then spoke on a similar case where the HHS wanted to charge the Little Sisters of the Poor seventy million dollars for not using insurance plans that would provide contraceptives, which is in violation of their Catholic faith to provide. Hannah worked on this case, like the Hobby Lobby one, and the case again was ruled in favor of the Little Sisters and religious liberty. Hannah went on to show how unbelievable it was that the federal government would want to charge women who were “doing God’s work” with such an obscene amount of money that they would no longer be able to serve the elderly poor. Hannah pointed out that both cases were painted by the media as a “war on women,” but in reality, the government was warring against Barbara Green and the Little Sisters of the Poor because of their religious beliefs.
Hannah, because of the current situations surrounding Justice Scalia’s death, moved on to describe the work she did to have Justice Alito appointed to the Supreme Court. The explanation helped attendees understand more about the behind-the-scenes process of a Supreme Court Justice nomination.
The event inspired the women at the CWN to be advocates for religious liberty and challenged all to better understand the legal defense of the first amendment.
At the end, Hannah answered the many questions on a variety of topics. The questions ranged from ones about the defense of non-Judeo-Christian religion to how to balance work and family life. Hannah urged attendees to stay informed in order to become strong advocates for religious liberty.
Pictured above (l-r): Danielle Fife, Hannah Smith, Andrea Vacchiano, Elizabeth Campbell, Abigail Slagle, Danielle DiQuattro
Danielle DiQuattro is a 2016 summer intern.