The U.S. Supreme Court begins hearings this week on the contraceptive mandate—the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to include birth control in their insurance plans. Several issues are in play—all have to do with values.
One issue is this: Do corporations have religious rights? Are they “people”?
Churches and religious groups are exempt from the contraceptive mandate, meaning that they don’t have to provide this coverage if it violates religious principles. The cases the high court considers this week involve secular corporations whose owners object to the mandate on religious grounds. The companies are Hobby Lobby (owned through a trust by evangelical Christians) and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation (owned by a Mennonite family).
Similar cases heard in federal courts around the country have produced conflicting decisions, which is why this challenge to the Affordable Care Act has risen to the U.S. Supreme Court.
An argument preview on the Supreme Court of the United States blog presents one of the core issues: “At the level of their greatest potential, the two cases raise the profound cultural question of whether a private, profit-making business organized as a corporation can ‘exercise’ religion and, if it can, how far that is protected from government interference… In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are ‘people.’ The First Amendment protects the rights ‘of the people,’ and the … law protects the religious rights of ‘persons.’ Do profit-making companies qualify as either?”
Do corporations have religious rights?
Are corporations “people”?
How would you decide the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases?