The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby on Monday in what's been a very buzzy, controversial case. The company has been fighting against Obamacare, saying that its owners should not have to provide certain birth control coverage to employees, because it violates their religious beliefs. Meanwhile, under the Affordable Care Act, employer insurance plans must cover contraception. Churches and other religious institutions are exempt from the requirement, but at question has been whether private, for-profit companies can use religion as a way to get out of certain federal requirements. Since you're probably seeing the Hobby Lobby case show up on the news or in your Facebook feed, here's what you should know:
First up: what is Hobby Lobby?
It's an arts-and-crafts store based in Oklahoma and privately owned by the Green family. There are 520 stores in 42 states.
So like Michaels?
What does religion have to do with it?
David Green, Hobby Lobby's founder and CEO, is a religious activist. Actually, he says God is the true owner of his $3 billion business. Hobby Lobby is not open on Sundays, plays religious music in stores, and donates half of its pretax earnings to evangelical ministries. According to Forbes, Green has given an estimated $500 million to charities. He's made high-profile gifts, paying $16.5 million to build an entire campus at Northpoint Bible College in Massachusetts, for example. He's also helped distribute over 1.4 billion copies of the Gospel in places like Asia and Africa.
So what's the controversy?
Well, even before the current legal case, Hobby Lobby's practices have brought some backlash. In 2013, it came out that the store was not selling merchandise for Hanukkah, although it said it would begin testing products in certain markets.
And what does it have against Obamacare?
Hobby Lobby does not want to provide healthcare plans that cover IUDs and the morning-after pill, citing religious beliefs, since those methods can prevent pregnancy after fertilization. According to Hobby Lobby, Obamacare infringes on its religious rights, but the store's opponents argue that exempting large, for-profit businesses from the requirement would unfairly impose religious beliefs on employees who might not share them.
What's the official ruling on Hobby Lobby?
On June 30, a divided Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that business owners can object on religious grounds and seek an exemption from the birth-control mandate of the Affordable Care Act. The court's opinion stated that for-profit companies can make claims under 1993's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but employees are free to get birth control coverage without the employer's involvement.
Back in March, it appeared the court was divided along gender lines, with the female justices signaling support for the Obamacare birth-control mandate. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked, "What about employers who have religious objections to health plans that cover other basic medical procedures — blood transfusions, immunizations, medical products that include pork?" And Justice Elena Kagan commented, "Congress has given a statutory entitlement to women, and that includes contraception. And when the employer says no, that woman is quite directly, quite tangibly harmed." Meanwhile, the male justices seemed more sympathetic to Hobby Lobby's case — and there are more of them.
In a message to supporters this past Spring, Planned Parenthood President (and Claire Underwood look-alike) Cecile Richards, pictured below, said she was expecting defeat of the birth-control mandate. "But," she continued, "what I also saw today was the importance of having women on the Supreme Court, with the three female justices raising important questions about women's health and rights. It was clear from the moment the discussion began that Justices [Ruth] Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan understand the gravity of what is at stake here — not just for women, but for any employee."