Nonsequitur: Obamacare and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

July 2, 2014

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the “Government [from] substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise ofreligion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless the Government “demonstrates that application of theburden to the person—(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furtheringthat compelling governmental interest.” 42 U. S. C. §§2000bb–1(a), (b). As amended by the Religious Land Use and InstitutionalizedPersons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), RFRA covers “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” §2000cc–5(7)(A).

Yesterday, in “Burwell (HHS) vs Hobby Lobby,” the Supreme Court found that the Affordable Care Act violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It found that corporations, both for-profit and non-profit, were protected under the act, and that the government could not force the owners to violate their closely-held religious beliefs. It did NOT determine if all religious beliefs were so protected, but specified that beliefs regarding contraception and its inclusion in mandated health care insurance was covered. The court also did NOT determine whether the ACA restricts “Free Exercise” rights of religious practice.

Read the full court ruling here.

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