The Affordable Care Act returned to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, as the Justices heard a major challenge to the law’s birth-control mandate. Five and maybe even six Justices across ideological lines seemed discomfited by the Administration’s cramped conception of religious liberty.
In 2012 the Health and Human Services Department published a regulation interpreting an ObamaCare provision to require all for-profit employer health plans to cover 20 contraception methods, including four that some religious believers consider abortifacients and sterilization. The combined cases of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius are challenging the mandate under a 1993 law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
RFRA was passed by a unanimous House, 97 to three in the Senate, and signed by Bill Clinton after the Supreme Court restricted religious liberty in a 1990 case. The statute merely holds that when government interferes with the free exercise of religion, it must narrowly tailor its regulations to serve a compelling interest and impose the "least burdensome" option.
The left-right coalition behind this legal doctrine has since collapsed and liberals are now working diligently to undermine the law. The Obama Administration was pushing its "war on women" election theme in 2012 and went out of its way to harm people of faith who are out of political favor.
HHS did exempt churches from the mandate, and religious nonprofits can apply for a quasi-exemption, which is being litigated separately. But the Administration’s remarkable argument is that if a business is incorporated and for-profit, it forfeits normal constitutional rights. Hobby Lobby is a chain of craft stores that is a closely held, family-run corporation that tries to operate in accord with biblical principles.