The US Supreme Court agreed this week to hear the case of the retail chain Hobby Lobby and the Conestoga Wood Specialties who are bringing a challenge against the Affordable Care Act on the grounds of religious freedom.
Hobby Lobby, a chain of 500-plus arts and crafts stores, and Conestoga, a Pennsylvania-based woodworking business run by a Mennonite family, both have strong religious ethics running through them.
In a briefing to the court, Conestoga Wood Specialties said they "integrate their faith into their daily lives, including their work".
Hobby Lobby does not sell shot glasses, is closed on Sundays, and funnels large portions of its profits into ministries across the US.
On its website, the company describes one of its commitments as "honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles".
Both companies are arguing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - or Obamacare as it is more commonly known - is a violation of their religious freedom, as outlined in the first amendment of the US constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration act of 1993.
The ACA requires that any company with over 50 employees must provide a healthcare insurance plan for women that includes contraceptives. However both organizations argue that the contraceptives in question - certain types of intrauterine devices and post-coital oral contraceptives - terminate pregnancies rather than merely preventing them.
Since they consider such terminations to be sinful, they regard the state compelling them to pay for them as an infringement of their religious liberty.
If their case succeeds, it would be a landmark in giving a company access to the same religious freedom rights as individuals, something currently unprecedented.
"Corporations don't pray ... they don't have a religious conscience," David Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center was quoted as saying by USA Today in relation to the case. "These are all human attributes that don't apply to corporations."
However, in the case of Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that organizations have free speech and thus struck down government restrictions on corporate and union political advertising, setting a potential precedent for a broader interpretation of corporate rights.
A victory for Hobby Lobby could have wider consequences for healthcare provision under the ACA.
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SOURCE: Christian Today - Michael Trimmer