The Affordable Care Act contains a requirement that company health insurance which covers prescription drugs must cover contraceptive medication. Exemptions are provided for religious institutions where objection to contraception is part of their doctrinal belief. Twenty-eight states have similar mandates in their insurance laws and these have been upheld in court. In California Catholic Charities of Sacramento challenged the requirement and lost. When they appealed to the California Supreme Court, they lost again, and the United States Supreme Court has refused to hear their case.

Now Hobby Lobby stores have sued to have the exemption extended to their business, which is not a religious institution in the legal definition, because the owners object to contraception, forms of which they consider to be abortion (IUD's and the morning after pill).

In the past the courts have not granted exemptions to religiously neutral laws of general applicability simply on the basis of religious objections, but Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by an almost unanimous vote in 1993, essentially nullifying that practice on the grounds of a finding by Congress that neutral laws could substantially burden religious freedom.

Now the federal government is required to defend any action deemed burdensome to religious freedom as deriving from a compelling government interest and being the least invasive means possible for attaining that goal. In other words while Congress cannot make a law regarding the establishment of a religion, it can protect religious sensibilities by elevating religion in general to a privileged place in law. The RFRA was found unconstitutional in part in a case involving the Catholic Church because the law was interpreted as applying to states and municipalities, which exceeds the enforcement authority of Congress.

Given that six of the Supreme Court Justices are Roman Catholic, it seems quite likely that Hobby Lobby will prevail and that private for-profit companies will be able to ignore any provisions of law that it deems offensive to the religious sensibilities of the owners. Presumably business owners who object on religious grounds to blood transfusions can have them excluded from coverage.

I take this as another sign the country is moving to the right at a rapid pace. This is not good news for atheists.

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You're right, it's not good news for atheists, but few things ever are. We are a minority of minorities, elected officials won't care about us until we have more political juju.

until we have more political juju.

It's hard for me to see that happening very soon if ever.

It will probably happen, just not in my lifetime. Atheism is on the rise in MOST of the modern world, it just appears that our society has a little catching up to do.

Atheism is on the rise, but what seems to be rising much faster—in much of the world— is indifference to religious ideas. That is perhaps the greater hope—that more people will simply forego religious explanations as time goes on.

What does it say when religiously affiliated institutions don't trust those under their employ to do on their own initiative what the institution considers to be the right thing on, so they fight for the right to deny them the option to make a decision at all? Doesn't sound like freedom or faith to me. Sounds more like a dictatorship.

It is common with religious conservatives to claim that those who do not adhere to their beliefs—the one true system of faith in their view—do not enjoy the same freedoms they claim for themselves. Error has no rights in their estimate.

Of course that is not freedom at all.  Pope John-Paul II explained the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church on this point very well in his 1995 visit to the United States:

Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.

Of course he believed that the church should determine what it is we ought to do and by extension what we actually have the right to do. It has not generally been recognized what a sinister doctrine this is.

i've been following this case since the beginning.  yes, it upsets me greatly.  but in all likelihood it will end up being a very narrow ruling that won't end up opening Pandora's Box.  i could be wrong, of course.  

the worst part about it is that their objections are based on a false premise, at least if you believe science/the medical community.  their claim is that many of these contraceptives are abortificients.  that's pure nonsense, and that has been addressed to the SCOTUS.  conservative jurists respond by saying it doesn't matter what's true, it's what they believe.  if that isn't the perfect explanation for any religious belief i don't know what is.  

No matter what the owners of Hobby Lobby believe, I cannot accept that it is a burden of any great weight on them to provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive medication. We have pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for the morning after pill because they don't believe it's moral. That should not be allowed at all.

Hobby Lobby can choose not to provide health insurance at all, or to provide insurance that does not cover prescriptions, but it should not be able to choose which prescriptions are covered.

People have a right to regulate their own behavior, but not to prescribe regulations for others, no matter how much they believe they are right. As the philosopher John Stuart Mill said long ago:

Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

well said, Dr.  above and below.  

one more reason to take healthcare out of employers hands and have single payer.  

Matthew, could you post a link to some information on this issue?

Worst decision the SC ever made was calling corp. people. The High court is for sale.


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