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Does Obamacare Violate Religious Freedom?

BY RELEVANT CULTURE / ISSUE 62 / POLITICS February 15, 2013

While President Barack Obama’s health care mandate survived substantial pushback last year and, ultimately, was upheld by the Supreme Court, one of the many cogs in its outlay continues to stick. That cog—a requirement that certain “preventive services” be covered by group insurance plans—may have staggeringly broad implications.

To date, some 43 cases have been filed against the government, alleging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violates religious freedom, with the most common complaint arising from employers with religious ties who don’t want to have to cover contraceptives like the Plan B pill, which they claim has an abortifacient effect.

Among the organizations filing complaints are Wheaton College, Biola University, Tyndale House Publishers and Notre Dame University, with the highest-profile suit filed by Hobby Lobby, a privately owned arts and crafts retail chain claiming the foundation of its business is “strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with biblical principals.”

Hobby Lobby could face millions of dollars in fines for failing to comply with the mandate, but its founder and CEO, David Green, hasn’t thrown in the towel because the fate of contraception coverage is far from certain. Of the 14 cases that have been ruled in the federal courts so far, nine have gone the plaintiff’s way. That means the contraception mandate could be headed back to the high court and, from there, it’s anyone’s guess.

While places of worship and certain religious nonprofits aren’t required to implement Obamacare—the administration’s attempt to sidestep this very issue—the religious requirement is stringent. So, can the religious beliefs that undergird certain organizations and companies accord them the same freedoms as an individual? That’s the question at the heart of this debate.

The Numbers
$1.3

Millions—per day—Hobby Lobby could be fined for failing to follow the law.

110

Number of individuals arguing the HHS mandate violates their religious liberty.

43

Number of cases contesting the HHS mandate in federal court.

9

Number of times the federal courts have ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

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