One of the major areas of concern about Obamacare, at least for people of faith, is the requirement that businesses of a certain size must provide, through their insurance, certain aspects of “health coverage” that are contrary to their religious beliefs. Strictly religious organizations (i.e. churches, synagogues, mosques) are exempt from this requirement but “businesses” that are run by religious organizations (i.e. hospitals, orphanages, schools) are not exempt. Additionally, for-profit businesses aren’t even considered for an exemption regardless of the religious views of their owners, Board of Directors or business plan.
The Roman Catholic Church has been the most prominent religious organization to challenge the HHS mandate, claiming that providing abortifacient, contraception and sterilization is contrary to the religious beliefs of the Church and as such, a violation of their First Amendment rights. One of the more publicized businesses to make this claim is Hobby Lobby, though the Administration has declared that as a “secular” business, they are not entitled to First Amendment freedoms.
Essentially, the current Administration is attempting to redefine what healthcare is as well as who is entitled to religious freedom.
In an article on the Forbes website, James Poulos provides what I think is a good explanation of this debate and the challenges that are ahead:
Obama, Religious Liberty, And The Constitution
The 1st Amendment directly expresses the Constitution’s clear ‘bias’ in favor of religion. The first words out of the gate in the Bill of Rights are “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[.]” If you’re freely exercising religion, that is, you’re better protected than if you’re trying freely to express something that’s like religion but, crucially, not. Mere moral preferences do not receive the same protection. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has characteristically interpreted religion and free exercise about as broadly as possible. And, like the Court, Americans have tended to view the exercise of religion as a important and privileged variety of free expression in general. Rarely are religious observances prohibited. Cults that face persecution or prosecution abroad do okay here. Heresies are often tolerated and widely practiced.
So even though the Constitution favors religious practices over merely moral preferences, constitutional law and American common sense approve of defending shared lifestyle commitments and convictions. That makes for two types of pro-religious culture. They aren’t often in tension. But that may be changing.
UPDATE: More news on the businesses, schools and Church groups suing against the HHS mandate of Obamacare can be found in this article on the Christianity Today website.
UPDATE: This article on The Becket Fund website has new information on the Hobby Lobby fight against providing the abortion pill for its employees.