In one of the most closely watched cases of the year, the
nine-member court will weigh whether for-profit corporations may
raise religious objections to a mandate in President Barack Obama's
signature 2010 healthcare law that their insurance cover
It brings to the forefront thorny questions of religious freedom and
reproductive rights, along with enduring politicking over the law
known as Obamacare, itself broadly upheld by the Supreme Court in
The poll asked whether employers should be able to choose what forms
of contraceptives their health plans provide based on their
religious beliefs. Of those responding, 53 percent disagreed and 35
percent agreed. Of those surveyed, 12 percent said they did not
The justices will sit at 10 a.m. ET on Monday for the final day of
their nine-month annual term.
In the case, two family-owned companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga
Wood Specialties, challenged the insurance requirement for certain
employee birth control devices and methods as a violation of a 1993
religious-freedom law. The Oklahoma based arts-and-crafts retailer
Hobby Lobby is controlled by evangelical Christians, and the
Pennsylvania-based cabinet-manufacturer Conestoga Wood Specialties
is owned by Mennonites. The healthcare law already exempts churches
and religious-run entities from the contraceptive mandate.
The companies, and others involved in related lawsuits, do not
oppose every type of birth control. Some object only to emergency
contraceptive methods, such as the "morning-after" pill, which they
view as akin to abortion.
The Obama administration contends for-profit corporations, even
closely held ones, do not exercise religious rights as individuals
do and are not covered by the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration
During oral arguments in March, the justices seemed split along
ideological lines, with the five conservative justices suggesting
they might be ready to rule that certain for-profit entities have
the same religious rights to object to federal requirements as
In a 2010 case known as Citizens United, the five-justice
conservative bloc enhanced corporate free speech rights when it
struck down campaign finance regulation.
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The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 10,693 people was conducted April 28-June
20, 2014. It found that 40 percent strongly disagreed and 13 percent
somewhat disagreed with the idea that employers should be able to
choose what forms of contraceptives their health plans provide based
on their religious beliefs. It found that 20 percent strongly agreed
and 15 percent somewhat agreed with the idea. The poll has a
credibility interval of plus or minus 1.1 percentage point.
The administration contends that if the court rules for the
companies, the decision could lead to lawsuits by corporations
against other federal requirements, including minimum-wage and
Social Security tax laws. A company might also object, some liberal
justices suggested during oral arguments, to providing coverage for
The only other pending case is over whether public employees can be
forced to pay union dues. The case, Harris v. Quinn, tests whether
Illinois may force in-home healthcare workers to pay union fees. It
could have repercussions for public employee unions nationwide
because, at its broadest, the question is whether mandatory union
dues violate free speech rights. Under earlier cases, public-sector
unions are allowed to collect money from workers who do not want
union representation, if the money is not spent on political
The contraception cases are Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga
Wood Specialties v. Burwell, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-354 and No.
13-356. The other case is Harris v. Quinn U.S. Supreme Court, No.
(Reporting by Joan Biskupic; Editing by Howard Goller and Ken Wills)
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