The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear another case about the First Amendment. This time as it relates to religious freedom – and religion-based choices. Arts and crafts industry leader Hobby Lobby is challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide extensive coverage for contraceptives – like IUDs and morning after pills. Four years ago the court was asked to rule on free speech in relation to campaign contributions. A widely disputed ruling by the justices held that private corporations had free speech rights in election campaigns. Now the Court is being asked to decide whether private-sector entities companies can be granted religious liberties. Hobby Lobby is made up of some 500 plus stores owned by the Green family. The Greens are Evangelical Christians who contend contraceptive requirements inherent in Obamacare violate guarantees of religious freedom to which they are entitled. Some contraception devices can end human life after conception, so says the Green Family, and thus forcing them to fund such devices makes them accessories to abortions. Obama Administration advisors are fighting back. Their argument: there is no legal precedent for a private enterprise winning a right, based upon religious beliefs, to be exempted from laws which govern for profit corporations. The lawsuits seek remedies potentially based not just on the 1st Amendment, but also on a 1993 congressional act strengthening religious freedom. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of that year states: “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” except to further a “compelling” interest.
In addition to Hobby Lobby, about 50 other for-profit companies of varying sizes are in litigation to obtain a religious exemption from the contraceptives rule.