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Would the Hobby Lobby ruling allow "employers with religiously grounded objections" to refuse to cover blood transfusions, anesthesia, and vaccinations?

There are two responses here, legal and practical. As a legal matter, federal courts, including the Supreme Court, may not issue "advisory opinions," which are opinions on issues not before the Court. The sole issue before the Court in Hobby Lobby was whether the contraceptive mandate, as written, was prohibited under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). After resolving that issue, the case was over, and the Court could not then say "and for good measure, let's also talk about blood transfusions, vaccinations, the situation in Syria, etc." So Justice Ginsburg's point is more for talking heads than for legal practitioners: the Court couldn't reach issues like blood transfusions even if it wanted to.If a Jehovah's Witness brought a suit objecting to having to provide insurance for blood transfusions, the analysis would be exactly the same as in Hobby Lobby: does the neutral law concerning blood transfusions meet the standards of RFRA? That is, (1) does the law serve a compelling state interest, and (2) is it tailored in the "least restrictive means" possible respecting religion? Hobby Lobby assumed the first prong, and was decided against the government on the second prong, since the government plainly had alternative approaches that could have provided coverage without violating the sincerely held religious beliefs of the company's owners. The same questions would be asked with regard to the statutes covering antidepressants, vaccinations, etc., Maybe the laws survive RFRA analysis, maybe they don't. Just because in the case of Hobby Lobby there was a less restrictive means of accomplishing the government's goal does not mean that laws will always fail the "less restrictive means" test.A lot of commentary misses this point entirely. Again: the government lost its case because the majority concluded that there were less restrictive ways for the government to accomplish its goal of providing wider contraceptive coverage, that is, the government could have reached the same outcome without infringing on the sincerely held religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby's owners. Had the government demonstrated that it could not accommodate Hobby Lobby (and like-minded individuals) and still implement the contraceptive mandate, it would have won its case 9-0, and Hobby Lobby would have been out of luck, its owners' sincere beliefs notwithstanding. RFRA is applied to specific laws and facts to make sure that laws of general application do not do more harm to the free exercise of religion than is necessary to implement the law. RFRA does not stand for the proposition that laws may never burden the practice of religion, or that if one asserts a religious objection, one does not have to obey the law.Finally, as a practical matter, the majority notes that the "parade of horribles" offered by Justice Ginsburg is wholly theoretical. Is it possible that 6 months from now, we'll have a bunch of businesses owned by adherents to obscure religious faiths trying to claim that neutral laws violate their First Amendment rights? I suppose, although I don't accept that the world will end merely because people assert their free exercise rights. But regardless, there is nothing in the history of the country that suggests this will be the case--both federal law and the First Amendment have been around a long time, and the ACA is not the first law that ordered people to do things they found offensive, or made it more difficult to observe their faiths. Challenges could theoretically be brought on any number of laws. Yet the number of free exercise cases we see is very, very small.

What are the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby?

The implications for those seeking contraceptives through employer-provided health insurance are likely minimal in the long term. In response to this decision, the federal government will almost certainly either (a) more broadly extend work-arounds for sincere religious objections that have previously been applied to religious organizations or (b) find a way to take responsibility for contraceptives at a government level. An employee of a company like Hobby Lobby may not get the company to share in the cost of their contraceptives, but he/she will most likely be able to get contraception coverage through an insurer under the ACA.The elephant in the room is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). As I've written elsewhere, see Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014 SCOTUS decision): How does a Johnny Foreigner to the USA like myself understand the reasoning behind the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision to deny their employees contraceptive coverage? I’m struggling here, stripped of all the hyperbole and fearmongering from both sides, this case was simply an application of RFRA. I happen to believe that the Court did its job here and correctly applied the law as written, but I can understand the perspective of people who dislike the result. I suspect that Congress--mostly Democrats, but likely some law-and-order Republicans, as well--will be interested in taking another look at RFRA and whether it needs to be amended. It would not surprise me to see some members of Congress advocating that RFRA be repealed, either. And until RFRA is addressed in Congress, the Supreme Court has likely opened itself up to years of litigation over how far RFRA actually goes. I think the more interesting cases would be ones brought by minority religions in the US--we owe a great deal of our First Amendment jurisprudence to Jehovah's Witnesses, for example.Contrary to User-11776237176100719075, this case does not stand for the proposition that "any religious person who owns a corporation or business may refuse to abide by federal laws." This case does not put us on the road to anarchy. RFRA states that the government may not substantially burden religious exercise (minor burdens are not an issue) unless the law in question (1) serves a compelling state interest and (2) burdens religion in the "least restrictive means" possible. In other words, RFRA is not about what the individual/group can or cannot do, but rather, about limits on Congress's ability to pass neutral laws that nonetheless infringe upon religious liberty. The real issue in this case was never whether an individual or corporation could refuse to obey federal law--the issue was whether the law could be enforced over RFRA in the first place.In Hobby Lobby, even the majority accepted that the contraceptive mandate served a compelling state interest, so the sole question was whether the mandate could accomplish its purposes while placing fewer restrictions on religious exercise. Since the government had already demonstrated that there were less restrictive work-arounds when it came to religious organizations, it was difficult for it to argue that the law, as written, passed RFRA when applied to closely-held corporations. That's why the government lost. Had the government sufficiently explained why it couldn't be less restrictive--or agreed to adopt a less restrictive approach--even the majority would have gone the other way, and Hobby Lobby would have been out of luck.

Up until today's SCOTUS ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, have people been receiving insurance reimbursements for contraception under the ACA, or has that provision been on hold pending the outcome of the case?

FYI - the ruling is much narrower than a lot of people realize. For Hobby Lobby specifically - it only excludes certain IUD's and the "morning after pill." Other forms of contraception are covered.Second FYI - the effect of this will (hopefully) - move the whole contraceptive debate into the public domain - where we can (hopefully) agree that birth control is an individual right to purchase (not a privilege to bestow via medical intervention) and we can make the associated products freely available as over-the-counter options (not prescription based). The benefits of doing that far outweigh any clinical risk (either perceived or real).Clearly some forms of contraception are applicable to OTC - while others are not. In the case of Hobby Lobby - one of the quotes from Justice Ginsburg's dissenting opinion is worth referencing:"It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage." [1][1] SCOTUS Decision on Hobby Lobby et al on supremecourt.gov

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