POL 151 - 15b - Burwell v Hobby Lobby.pdf - Burwell v Hobby...

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1 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014) Vote: 5 (Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas) 4 (Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor) FACTS This case involves the interpretation and application of two major statutes: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). It does not directly involve a constitutional issue. In 1993, Congress passed RFRA by large margins and it was signed into law by President Clinton. The goal of the statute was to provide religious activities greater protection from government regulation than the Supreme Court had ruled was required under the First Amendment. See Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith (1990). The law stipulated that government could not burden a person’s free exercise of religion except in furtherance of a compelling government interest and using the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. The law originally applied to the actions of all state and federal governments. In City of Boerne v. Flores (1997), the Supreme Court struck down RFRA as it applied to state and local governments, finding that the federal government had overstepped its authority under the Fourteenth Amendment to regulate the states and their subdivisions. In response, Congress amended RFRA by passing the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). This statutory revision applied the same compelling interest/least restrictive means standard to a more limited category of government actions. It defined religious exercise as “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to , a system of religious belief.” Congress also declared that religious liberty should be protected to the maximum extent permitted under the statute and the Constitution. The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010. The law dramatically altered the nation’s health insurance sector. Among its provisions, the ACA required employers of 50 or more full-time workers to provide health insurance that includes “minimal essential coverage.” Under this provision, “pre ventive care and screenings” were to be provided at no additional cost to the employee. Congress did not specify what services would be included in such preventive care; it left that decision to Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Subsequently, the final regulations required that preventive care include all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved methods of contraception and sterilization. These methods encompass those that prevent the fertilization of an egg as well as four methods that prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. The regulations exempt churches, associations of churches, and religious orders from this requirement.

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