The US Supreme Court yesterday vindicated two Christian-owned companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, that have a pro-life objection to including in their employee health plans certain contraceptive drugs and devices. In a 5-4 decision, the Court said that the government did not meet the test set up by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law passed with overwhelming support in Congress and proudly signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
The controversy is over the contraceptives mandate in the 2010 health care reform law, which requires employers’ health plans to cover a wide range of contraceptive drugs and devices, including some the companies and others regard as abortifacients. Churches are exempt from the mandate; after widespread protest, religious nonprofits such as colleges and hospitals were offered an “accommodation”: the insurer provides to the organization a health plan excluding objectionable contraceptives and then announces to the employees that those contraceptives will be paid for by the insurer. No relief at all was offered to companies like those in the cases decided yesterday: religion has no place in commerce, the government claimed. Some 100 lawsuits, by businesses as well as religious nonprofits, have been launched against the contraceptives mandate.
Besides the relief granted to the two companies and others with similar religious claims, what’s most important is the Supreme Court’s rejection of the government’s effort to make business a religion-free zone.