June 26, 2014
Authored by: Keith Kehrer
Within the next several days, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue its decision regarding whether the government can require Hobby Lobby to provide abortion-inducing contraceptives in its health plan, notwithstanding Hobby Lobby’s religious objection to abortion. In determining whether the law can be applied to Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court must decide whether religious exercise rights should be applied broadly or narrowly.
The Supreme Court’s decision will likely have important implications for nonprofit religious organizations. Most directly, the decision may determine whether such organizations can claim a religious exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate. More generally, the decision may determine the scope of other important religious exemptions.
Many religious organizations have a vital interest in preserving their rights to:
- employ fellow believers as they deem necessary;
- carry out their ministry activities in accordance with their beliefs (e.g., with respect to marriage and sexual conduct); and
- qualify for religious tax exemptions.
In our current legal climate, religious organizations must increasingly rely on broad religious exemptions to exercise these rights. If only narrow religious exemptions are available, then many religious organizations will be required to sacrifice their religious character in order to accomplish their religious mission.
Although the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Hobby Lobby will not expressly determine whether broad religious exemptions apply in each of these areas, it very likely will set a legal foundation to support either broad or narrow exemptions. For this reason, we filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in which we argued for broad religious exemptions. A copy of this brief may be accessed by clicking here.
After the Supreme Court issues its decision, we will provide an analysis of the decision’s actual impact on religious organizations. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.