Supreme Court Asked to Decide If Corporations Have Religious Freedom

In Business Law, Healthcare Reform by Coolidge Wall

As discussed in an earlier blog post, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) created a controversy about whether for-profit corporations have religious freedom. The issue concerns the requirement under ACA that health insurance sufficient to avoid penalties must include coverage for certain forms of birth control. Businesses closely held by families with strong religious convictions are objecting to this requirement as an infringement of religious freedom.

In June Hobby Lobby and Mardel, Christian corporations owned by the same family, received a court order preventing the federal government from enforcing the contraception requirement and any related penalties. Also in June, Conestoga Wood Specialties, another Christian corporation located in a different state, was denied a similar order.

On September 19, the federal government requested the Supreme Court hear its appeal of the Hobby Lobby case. On the same day, Conestoga Wood Specialties requested that the Supreme Court hear its appeal. If the Supreme Court accepts the requests, a decision would be issued before the end of June 2014. It may be six weeks before the Supreme Court announces whether it will hear the appeals.

Although the Supreme Court will probably hear the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases and resolve the issues, on September 17, 2013, the 6th Circuit (which includes Ohio) issued its decision holding that for-profit corporations do not have religious freedom.