On Tuesday, March 24, the United States Supreme Court began hearing arguments (both for and against) that relate the newly introduced Affordable Care Act and the impact that a specific regulation of the ACA has on for-profit companies and businesses. The arguments being presented will require the U.S. Supreme Court to make a decision on the possible religious liberties that can be taken by for-profit companies as they relate to the requirement of the ACA that obliges employers to provide employees health plans that include contraceptives. These new requirements of the ACA are strongly opposed by Christian-owned Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. which is the main voice behind the opposition.
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (owned by the Green family) firmly believes that contraceptive devices go against their religious views and have defined and operated their company and business in a way that protects their decision to stand against any imposed contraceptive requirements. The family believes that contraceptive devices have the ability to end a life after it has been created which directly violates their right to exercise their religious views.
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act believe that Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is acting as a commercial enterprise and there has not been a single ruling in favor of a for-profit company winning a battle against regulations that impact the business based on an argument of religious beliefs. Many believe that a corporation, or business, cannot have a “religion” because of their for-profit operation and that the business must abide by rules in place that govern any type of exemption from a law.
At the core of the arguments will be the First Amendment, a previous ruling known as “Citizens United” and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. have already won an exemption from a Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the contraceptive issue where the judges stated that the previous decision from “Citizens United” (where the Supreme Court ruled that for-profit corporations had complete First Amendment rights in election campaigns) carried over into this decision. The Appeals court further went on to say that they believed that since the Supreme Court recognized constitutional protection for political expression and therefore the same recognition should be made for religious expression. This is what prompted the involvement of the Supreme Court.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a law established in 1993 that prevents other laws from substantially burdening person’s free exercise of religion. Supporters of the current Affordable Care Act believe that corporations and businesses are completely separate from the individuals that own them and therefore the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot protect Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The Greens believe that they exercise their religion in the way they control and operate their company and therefore there is a very apparent and understandable connection between the individual and the corporation.
It may take some time for a determination to be made but regardless of the decision made by the Supreme Court, it will have a sweeping impact not only on the Affordable Care Act, but also several other advocates and other interest groups.