In setback for Obama health law
Private corporations that are so-called “closely held” have a right to religious freedom under U.S. law just like individual citizens, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, in a divided opinion that will allow religious for-profit companies to refuse to pay for the employee contraceptive coverage required by President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
The 5 to 4 decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, found that the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act violates a 1993 law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RCPA) in the case of two for-profit businesses, the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby of Oklahoma City and the cabinetry maker Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania. The owners of both stores argued that certain forms of covered contraception, including Plan B, ella and intrauterine devices, had the potential to work after conception, violating their religious values. The ruling applies to “closely held” corporations that are controlled by just a few people.
Congress passed the RCPA in 1993 to mandate that the government use the “least restrictive means” of furthering its interests in situations that infringed on the religious freedoms. Alito ruled that the contraception mandate did not meet that test, which he said must be applied even in case of objections by closely held corporations. “Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law,” Alito wrote in his opinion.