Supreme Court to decide on Obamacare HHS mandate soon

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule soon on challenges to the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act. The challenges filed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties argue that the Obama administration’s mandate violates the religious freedom of faith-based business owners.

The court’s decision on the challenges will determine whether  for-profit business owners can claim a religious exemption to providing birth control if it violates their conscience.

Proponents of the mandate argue that companies operating for profit do not have the same religious freedom offered to citizens, and an exemption would impose a burden on employees who do not hold the same religious views.

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. Business owners, regardless of their moral or religious convictions, will face hefty fines if requirements are not met.

“Americans must be free to exercise their constitutionally protected liberties without fear of punishment,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.

During a hearing on March 25, judges on the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to agree that the religious convictions of business owners should be protected by federal law; however, it is uncertain how the court will rule.

Hobby Lobby is a large chain of arts and craft stores owned by Evangelical Christians. Conestoga Wood Specialties is a manufacturer of wood doors and components owned by a Mennonite family.

In 2012, the Obama administration decided to allow faith-based organizations, such as hospitals and universities, to allow employees to obtain free birth control from health insurers; however, the case before the high court does not address that particular exemption.

If the nation’s highest court rules against the mandate, it would be the first portion of Obamacare rolled back since 2012, when judges ruled that states could not be forced by the federal government to expand Medicaid.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June 2014.

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