The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s  requirement that they offer birth control coverage in their employee health plans. In the court’s 5-4 decision, a majority of the justices took the side of family-run businesses, including the craft store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., whose owner said he regards some forms of contraception as immoral.

We knew this would be a thorny issue. As such, many of the comments we printed are from our readers who asked to remain  anonymous. That’s a departure from our usual policy. The debate, when it didn’t devolve into the usual abortion rights debate, seemed to split readers into two groups. Those who agreed, in general, tended to believe that if you’re a closely held business, the government shouldn’t be allowed to tell you what health care coverages you are required to provide. Many made the point that if employees want specific coverages, then they shouldn’t work for businesses that don’t offer them. Those who disagreed tended to worry about the potential slippery slope that this ruling might create, and expressed concern about religion being used to justify potential discrimination in other ways. 

It’s a good debate for business leaders to have. As some readers pointed out, the impacts of offering or not offering coverage for contraceptives will likely play out in the free market, with employees having to make decisions about where they will or will not work. 

- Chris Conetzkey, editor of the Business Record


WE ASKED:

Do you AGREE or DISAGREE with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth control coverage?

RESULTS:

AGREE: 59%
DISAGREE: 41%

YOU RESPONDED:

AGREE:

You can’t ask a business owner to check his faith at the door. Faith, when practiced well, defines all aspects of the person.  
- Terry Miller, business owner

The law as it was written compelled business owners to go against their conscience. This ruling does not DENY anyone the right to use birth control or get an abortion; it only means the employer does not need to pay for it.
- Anonymous

It’s a privately held company; they should be able to run it how they see fit. If you don’t like it, don’t shop or work there and they’ll struggle as a business and change their ways. 
- Anonymous

Family-owned businesses are different from large publicly held corporations; the owners’ beliefs are tied much more closely to the business. They are not limiting ACCESS to birth control, just refusing to PAY FOR those methods that violate their faith beliefs. They are not refusing to pay for all birth control, just those considered to be abortifacients. And we have, traditionally, allowed “carve-outs” for religious beliefs. (For example, the) Catholic church doesn’t have to hire female priests, etc.
- Jean Baker

If a person wants their insurance coverage to include this as an option, then they should work for an employer that offers it.
- Anonymous

Freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided by the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also at the core of the separation of church and state tenet.
- Anonymous

I believe it is a company’s right to provide what they want as a benefit to their employees. Just because they pay taxes does not mean that the government can govern every decision for them.
- Anonymous

Government needs to stop mandating personal behavior.  
- Steven Weiss, Principal, Direct Solutions Group

Contraception, except in limited cases, is not a medical necessity but a convenience. Health insurance should be for medically necessary treatment.
- Anonymous

DISAGREE:

The First Amendment to the Constitution states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, which the Affordable Care Act did not do. Freedom of religion does not allow you to impose your religious beliefs on your employees, or anyone else you happen to be prejudiced against, such as gay people. Other Court decisions have upheld that. This is just wrong. 
- Marty Jorgensen

Corporations are not people and should not have religious exemptions. They should not have the ability to claim corporate protections while taking exemptions reserved for individuals.
- Anonymous

A can of worms has been opened. This opens up discrimination by religious belief for all sorts of issues. And like we really need people at Hobby Lobby, being paid $8.50/hour, to NOT be on birth control, because anyone on that type of wage can afford to have children ... #saracasmfont.
- Anonymous

This ruling allows “religious”-minded people to discriminate against others they disagree with. This is not freedom; it subjects the many to the beliefs of the few.
- Anonymous

Because an individual’s medical care shouldn’t be dictated by the religious beliefs of their employers.
- Naura Heiman Godar, Architect, RDG Planning & Design

Employers should not be allowed to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.
- Lynn Ferrell

The institutional misogyny embedded in this ruling has long-term and far-reaching implications in what has rightly become known as the “war on women” in the United States. These are the same family-run companies (and jurists) who would deny coverage for termination of unwanted/unplanned pregnancies and for family leave benefits ... both of which will be the natural result of the unavailability of responsible contraception. What is truly “immoral” is the now-institutionalized insinuation of the personal beliefs of these business owners into the private lives of their employees. 
- Debra Salowitz

Why should Hobby Lobby get to make the decision for all its employees instead of the employees making the decision? Aren’t they forcing their beliefs on others, the exact thing they were fighting against?
- Anonymous