January 11, 2013
Workers' Comp Law Doesn't Restrict Religious Freedom, Montana Supreme Court Rules
Hutterite Christians who live communally must carry insurance for construction jobs completed off site.
The Montana Supreme Court has voted 4-3 to uphold a state law that requires religious organizations to carry workers' compensation insurance.
The decision is part of a lawsuit filed by the Big Sky Colony of Hutterites, members of an Anabaptist group who live highly religious lives in communes across the northern United States. According to the Star Tribune, the Hutterites "are primarily agricultural producers but have expanded into construction with success because they can offer lower job bids than many private businesses."
In 2009, the Montana legislature passed a law requiring religious organizations to carry workers' insurance after other contractors said they could not outbid the Hutterites. But the Hutterites filed suit, arguing that the law targeted them and unjustly infringed upon their religious practices.
The divided court ruled 4-3 in favor of the law. According to the Associated Press, the majority found that the "workers' compensation requirement does not interfere with the Hutterites' religious practices but only regulates their commercial activities like any other business."
CT's previous coverage of the Hutterites includes the irony of how a Hutterite legal loss over driver's license photos offered a new legal defense for other Christian groups, as well as Hutterite ambivalence about cell phones and a book review of I Am Hutterite, a memoir of growing up in a radical Anabaptist community.