Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review another challenge to a portion of the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby, a chain of crafts and hobby stores sued, challenging the ACA’s provision which mandates that employer-sponsored group medical plans provide certain coverage for contraceptives. The majority shareholders of Hobby Lobby contend that this requirement conflicts with their Christian beliefs, and therefore violates their First Amendment rights to exercise of these religious beliefs.
Federal appellate courts across the U.S. have taken different positions on this issue. The key questions involve whether corporations such as Hobby Lobby can take protected religious positions based on the beliefs of their owners. The plaintiffs rely on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which concluded that corporations have freedom of speech protections that were violated by campaign finance reform limitations.
The government, on the other hand, will argue that private, for-profit corporations that are not primarily engaged in religious missions cannot use the beliefs of their shareholders to deprive employees of legal protections. If deemed a violation of religious expression, the government will contend that corporations will claim that a wide range of employee legal protections are inapplicable to them based on religious concerns.
Oral arguments in this case will be scheduled for the spring of 2014, with a decision possible prior to the conclusion of the Court’s current term in June.