Updates: Since the Hobby Lobby Decision

July 7, 2014Sarah Greenberg

A week ago today, the Supreme Court came down in what will be noted as one of the most important decisions in recent memory. In finding that closely-held corporations have the right to free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), these entities can thus seek exemptions from the contraception mandate. Although the majority opinion showed significant effort on the part of the Court to curtail RFRA-based exemptions to the contraception mandate and the contraception mandate only, it is clear that the Hobby Lobby case will have serious and significant impact.

Following the decision, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center weighed in on the case, and what it means for religious freedom and RFRA, women’s rights and health, and the framework of civil rights law in this country.

We have only just started to see the impact of the Hobby Lobby decision. Late last week, the Court applied its ruling to issue a preliminary injunction to Wheaton College, an evangelical institution that would fall under the contraception mandate’s accommodation. In considering whether the government furthered its compelling government interest of providing contraception in Hobby Lobby through the least restrictive means in Hobby Lobby, the Court found that the accommodation for religious non-profit organizations  is a reasonable alternative for closely-held corporations, leaving it up to Congress and the Obama Administration. Either branch will have to take into account the need for accommodation and the need for women to access contraception.

However, Court’s reasoning in the preliminary injunction in this case found the accommodation to be too much of a burden, seemingly striking down the accommodation prong of the contraception mandate. Although the Court will not convene again until October 2014, we will continue to watch as the non-profit cases make their way to the Supreme Court, as well as further implications and effects of the Hobby Lobby decision.

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