US Supreme Court backs Christian firms over contraception

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that some businesses can’t be forced to pay for employee health insurance that includes contraception.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that two businesses have protection on religious grounds against a Government mandate requiring coverage of contraceptive services in employee health plans.

The contraception mandate is included in law as part of Obamacare.

The Supreme Court cited the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which aims at preventing legislation that infringes on a person’s free exercise of religion.

The Supreme Court’s five conservative Catholic justices outvoted their four liberal counterparts.

All three women justices on the Supreme Court voted with the minority.

The decision only applies to “closely held” corporations, such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, which were plaintiffs in the case.

Such companies have 50 per cent of their shares owned by five or fewer individuals.

Around 90 per cent of all American businesses qualify as closely-held corporations.

The Supreme Court ruling also insisted that its decision only applied to the issue of contraception.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the Government could find another way for funding contraceptive services for employees in closely held corporations.

But in a dissenting opinion, Judge Ruth Ginsburg said it would cause “havoc” and invite Christian businesses to mount a flurry of challenges to other laws on religious grounds.

The healthcare mandate provides some exemptions for non-profit groups.

But many such groups, including several Catholic dioceses and institutions, claim they do not do go far enough.

At least three dozen cases are still pending across the US challenging the application of the mandate.

The President of the US Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, said the Supreme Court did not decide whether the extent of exemptions for non-profit groups also violates the RFRA.

But he praised the Supreme Court ruling as recognising “that Americans continue to follow their faith when they run a family business”.

Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain which has 25,000 employees, is run by a Christian family, but it only objects to contraceptives that are abortifacient.


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News category: World.

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