BREAKING: Supreme Court Backs Hobby Lobby in Contraceptive Mandate Challenge
Updated: Monday, June 30 2014, 12:13 PM CDT
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court advanced the cause of religious freedom Monday in the most closely watched case of its term, ruling that companies cannot be forced to offer insurance coverage for birth control methods they equate with abortion.
The 5-4 decision by the court's conservative majority, over the vehement objections of liberal justices, dealt a blow to President Obama's health care law two years after the court came within one vote of striking it down as unconstitutional.
It represented the second consecutive victory at the court for the religious right. Last month, the court upheld the centuries-old tradition of opening government meetings with a prayer, even when nearly all the prayers are Christian.
With its combination of controversial issues -- religion, abortion, contraception, the health care law, business rights and government regulations -- the case had emerged as the most controversial of the term that began in October. Groups on both sides of the debate pitting religious freedom against reproductive rights had inundated the court with briefs.
In the end, the conservatives led by Justice Samuel Alito ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects closely held for-profit corporations -- those controlled by a limited number of shareholders -- from the law's so-called "contraception mandate." But they stopped short of a sweeping assertion that corporations can practice religion in the same way individuals can under the Constitution.