Over the past year or so, several dozen business owners have sued the federal government over a provision in the 2010 Affordable Care Act that requires many employers to include free coverage of contraceptive services in their employees’ health insurance plans. The business owners contend that, like religious institutions, they should not be forced to pay for services that conflict with their religiously based objections to birth control, sterilization or emergency contraception.
The lawsuits filed by businesses generally have not drawn as much attention as those brought by faith-based schools, hospitals and charities objecting to the contraception mandate on the same religious grounds. But that might be about to change. On May 23, 2013, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver will hear oral arguments in Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius,1 the first such case involving a sizable business to reach the appeals-court level.
The owners of Hobby Lobby, a chain of 525 arts and crafts stores, contend that, as evangelical Christians, they should not be forced to provide their 13,000 employees with insurance coverage that includes emergency contraception. They argue that requiring coverage of the morning-after pill and similar contraceptives, which they believe may abort pregnancies rather than prevent them, would violate their religious liberty rights. Although Hobby Lobby’s business is not intrinsically religious, the owners say, the corporation nevertheless adheres to certain practices that reflect their Christian commitments, including closing on Sundays.
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