The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case involving the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, a part of the Affordable Care Act, which requires employer-sponsored health insurance to provide free access to contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs. Since the implementation of the mandate, religious employers across the country have fought back with legal action, winning numerous battles for the right to maintain separation of Church and State, and their First Amendment right. These employers, which base their business model on their deeply-rooted religious beliefs which condemn the use of contraceptives, have been largely successful recently when it comes to Federal Courts siding with them on this matter.
However, a Federal Court in Alabama has ruled that the Global Catholic Network, which is the parent organization to EWTN, will not be exempt from this mandate, and so must violate the Catholic belief system that the organization is based upon. Alabama is a state which prides itself on protecting the Constitutional rights of its citizens, whether they be individuals or corporations, and the state offered support to EWTN through its Attorney General as a co-plaintiff in the case. EWTN had originally filed its case in 2012, but had to refile in October 2013 after the first case was dismissed on technical grounds. The organization plans to appeal the ruling to a Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
With over 80% of religious employers who have filed suit against the HHS mandate winning their cases, it comes as a surprise that EWTN has lost their bid for exemption from the law on religious grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling in the case of Hobby Lobby sometime within the next couple weeks, which could have wide-ranging impact for or against the other cases pending against the mandate.
But it does not need to be this difficult. These employers are exercising their First Amendment Right to freely practice their religious beliefs as they see fit. These employers, regardless of their religious affiliation, hold that this mandate is in direct violation of their religious beliefs. The First Amendment does not apply to individuals, but applies to those individuals who hold to a religious code in running their business, as well as their personal lives.
Hopefully, the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Hobby Lobby, and religious employers across the country will be free to opt-out of the HHS mandate, and therefore exercise their freedom of religion as they operate their businesses.