By Julissa Catalan
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain closely-held businesses are entitled to religious protection when it comes to healthcare offerings.
The case was brought by Hobby Lobby, a nationwide arts and crafts chain store, whose owners claimed that their religious beliefs should allow them to avoid offering health insurance that includes coverage for contraceptives at no cost to their employees.
At issue was whether or not the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) allows a for-profit corporation to deny contraceptives coverage to its employeesdespite the mandate in the Affordable Care Act that employers provide insurance which covers contraceptives free of chargebased on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.
The RFRA states that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.
All of Hobby Lobby’s roughly 500 stores nationwide are corporate-owned, not individual franchises. The arts and crafts chain is owned by the Green family and led by founder David Green, the son of an Assemblies of God preacher and outspoken Christian evangelist.
The ruling of this case reflects heavily on the question: Do privately-owned businesses have to right to impose their religious values on employees
The Green family has been joined by conservatives in citing religious freedom, while many women see it as an imposition on personal health choices.
According to a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, which was conducted in April, Americans supported the insurance requirement at 61 percent, while 32 percent opposed.
When asked specifically about the Hobby Lobby case, this same group voted in favor again at 55 percent.
Hobby Lobby’s current health plan covers almost twenty birth control methods, including pills and sterilization. The owners are battled four specific methods: two “morning after pills” like Plan B and two kinds of intrauterine devices (IUD), which prevent pregnancy after an egg could already be fertilized in the uterus.
The business-owners believe that human life begins at conception, and therefore these anti-birth methods would essentially be the same as promoting abortion.
Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the opinion, added that this decision was limited to closely held corporations: “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements , such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them. ”