The Supreme Court today ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby over the federal government, finding that the company is within its rights not to provide free contraception as required under Obamacare.
The five to four decision in the case Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius has Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote siding with conservatives Alito, Thomas, Scalia and Roberts. The decision means that employers can opt out of the contraception requirement because of religious objections.
“The Court says that the government has failed to show that the mandate is the least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to birth control,” according to ScotusBlog.
The decision hardly guts Obamacare, but it complicates the application of the law and provides yet more evidence of the Obama administration’s overreach and willingness to wade into private lives in order to advance its agenda.
Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion says that the government could pay for the coverage itself, so that women receive it.
This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to mean that all insurance mandates, that is for blood transfusions or vaccinations, necessarily fail if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.
It does not provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.
It is extremely likely that the Obama administration will by regulation provide for the government to pay for the coverage. So it is unlikely that there will be a substantial gap in coverage.
The determination that employers cannot “cloak illegal discrimination” as a religious practice suggests that the Court would not allow similar exclusions from Obamacare related to religious objections to homosexuality.
The decision appears to be in part an extension of the Citizens United ruling, which found that corporations could be considered “persons,” in this case persons with religious beliefs. But in this decision, only “closely held” companies – those with only a few owners, often families – are termed to have religious beliefs, not large corporations.