On Tuesday the Supreme Court of the United States took 90 minutes to hear arguments in a case which, on the surface at least, might seem trivial. Its decision, however, will have wide-ranging impact on the role of religion in modern America; women’s health practices; and the legacy of the Obama Administration.
The case involves a chain of Arts and Crafts stores called Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby is owned by a conservative Christian husband and wife partnership that employ over 13,000 people (a considerable portion of which are offered employee-provided health coverage as part of their compensation package).
As part of the Affordable Care Act (aka: ObamaCare), companies who employ more than 50 people must offer their full time employees health coverage. That coverage is meant to cover everything from hospital visits to preventative care and medication. Suffice to say, this part of ObamaCare has been met with considerable dissatisfaction. But the law is the law, as long as that law doesn’t infringe on your deeply held religious beliefs.
You see, similar to the way insurance companies used to refuse newly covered pregnant women pre-natal care (under the grounds their pregnancy was a “pre-existing” condition), insurance companies are (under ObamaCare) now required to cover certain contraceptive devices as preventative medical care (just like an annual flu vaccine).
Most insurance companies recognize 20+ different methods of contraception, from The Pill to more controversial methods like IUDs and Plan B. The logic goes: if Hobby Lobby is, by law, required to provide contraceptive devices (through employee-required health insurance policies) which they feel are in conflict with their deeply held religious beliefs, then that is in violation of their rights ascribed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing Freedom of Religion.
In the event the Supreme Court decides this is indeed a violation, then it will be the first in possibly a long list of exceptions to be successfully argued against the Affordable Care Act (the key domestic achievement and domestic legacy of the Obama Administration).
It might also open the door to a whole separate set of religion-based workplace requirements: such as an observant Jewish employer requiring their employees to remain kosher while in the break room; or a Muslim business owner demanding their female employees wear the hijab (or male employees maintaining a beard for either).
Based on Tuesday’s exchanges, most observers feel the court might rule in favor of Hobby Lobby. Given the glacial pace of the court we likely won’t get a decision until July. Watch this space for my take on it then.
Photo by southerntabitha