The Supreme Court announced today it would hear oral arguments in seven cases in which Christian organizations say Obamacare’s regulation violates a law protecting their religious liberty, as well as the First Amendment.
The federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, penalizes employers who don’t pay for employees’ healthcare, and its implementing regulations demand the healthcare also include “preventive care” services for abortions, sterilizations, and birth-control products and services.
Many companies are owned and operated by observant Christians and adherents of other pro-life faiths. They sued, alleging that HHS’s regulation violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), as well as the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In a watershed 2014 decision, the Supreme Court held by a 5-4 vote in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores that President Barack Obama’s HHS regulation violated RFRA, and therefore was illegal.
HHS next created what is called an “accommodation” for faith-based organizations, to avoid likely defeat when sued by religious nonprofit organizations, such as Catholic hospitals or Baptist universities. This allowed religious non-profits to sign a certification form expressing their religious objection, and so transfer their legal obligation to provide abortion-related drugs and services to the organization’s secular insurance carrier.
But faith-based groups object. If just certifying their objection would legally obligate a third party to fund abortions, these groups said it would still violate their conscience because the obvious consequences include dead unborn children. They regard it as the moral equivalent of, rather than shooting someone with a gun, Obamacare offers them the “accommodation” of making them load a gun and hand it to another person with the sole objective of that person shooting someone with the gun. The result is the same, and they want no part of it.
The legal question has reached the Supreme Court because the lower federal courts have split on whether making faith-based groups complicit in facilitating immorality is a substantial burden on their religious liberty that violates RFRA. So the various losing parties in seven separate cases across the nation asked the Supreme Court to take up the matter.
These groups include the Little Sisters of the Poor, Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University, and Westminster Theological Seminary, all represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Southern Nazarene University and Geneva College are represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom. Numerous organizations filed briefs supporting their petitions, such as the Christian and Missionary Alliance and Insight for Living Ministries, both represented by Liberty Institute.
On Nov. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted all seven cases for review by granting writs of certiorari. The cases have been consolidated for argument, which will likely take place in March.
The consolidated cases will all be decided under the name of the first petition docketed by the Supreme Court, Zubik v. Burwell.
Ken Klukowski is legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.