Supreme Court supports religious freedom of businesses
Monday, June 30, 2014
A potentially landmark decision on religious liberty occurred today in the U.S. Supreme Court — and religious freedom won.
The court ruled in favor of business owners objecting on religious grounds to a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Two companies — Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties — came together to sue the Obama administration because the Affordable Care Act requires each company to provide health insurance that includes contraception.
The Obama administration previously had granted an exemption for contraception coverage for churches as well as special accommodations for religious hospitals, schools and nonprofits. But for-profit companies were required to comply with the coverage rule or pay fines.
Since both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are Christian-based companies, they felt that providing contraception through their insurance would counteract their religious views. Lawyers argued that the mandate violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which states that "government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection of this section."
The companies' attorney, Paul Clement said "because the Obama administration has provided some exemptions to the rule that it should be willing to exempt companies, too."
And that's exactly what happened. The justices ruled 5-4 on not requiring companies to pay for employees' contraceptives for women if the companies have "closely held" religious objections. The decision means employees of those companies will have to obtain certain forms of birth control from other sources.
This lawsuit — the most significant political victory against the healthcare law — has marked the first time that this kind of ruling has occurred. And this decision could resonate far past the Affordable Care Act to other laws and issues.
According to The New York Times, the law should apply to all employers.
"Under the law and related regulations, small employers do not need to offer health coverage at all; religious employers like churches are exempt; religiously affiliated groups may claim an exemption; and some insurance plans that had not previously offered the coverage are grandfathered," Adam Liptak wrote.
And The Huffington Post writes that the decision may affect other similar cases — 49 total — brought by employers around the country.
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