Supreme Court Exempts Some Companies From Health-Care Law on Religious Grounds

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from The Wall Street Journal,

High Court Sides With Employers Who Said Providing Contraceptives Violated Their Beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in a 5-4 split said “closely held” companies can on religious grounds opt out of a federal health-care law requirement that companies provide contraception coverage for employees, carving another piece from President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

In a ruling by Justice Samuel Alito, the court’s five conservative justices wrote that private companies, such as Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., can’t be forced to provide contraceptive health services that violate their owner’s religious beliefs.

The case was the first challenge to the Affordable Care Act to reach the Supreme Court since 2012, when the justices upheld most of the health-care overhaul against a constitutional challenge.

Justice Alito framed the ruling as “very specific” to the case before the court, and argued that no women would be burdened with the costs of contraceptives because their employers objected.

Instead, he suggested that the Obama administration extend to for-profit companies the same accommodation it had to religiously affiliated nonprofits that object to contraception—that is, requiring that insurers provide contraceptives without charging premiums to employers or copayments to individuals.

The Department of Health and Human Services “has provided no reason why the same system cannot be made available when the owners of for-profit corporations have similar religious objections,” Justice Alito wrote. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

Hobby Lobby and other companies said their religions consider certain birth-control methods immoral, and therefore they weren’t obliged to help provide them under a 1993 statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law requires federal laws to accommodate individuals’ religious beliefs unless there is a compelling interest at stake that can’t be attained through other means.

The Supreme Court’s majority agreed, citing the religious freedom law in their decision.

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