Acton Institute Powerblog

Contraceptive Mandate Divides Appeals Courts

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contraceptive pillsTwo different federal appeals courts have issued opposite rulings on whether Obamacare can force company owners to violate their religious beliefs by providing contraception and abortifacients to their employees.

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that a Pennsylvania cabinet-making company owned by a Mennonite family must comply with the contraceptive mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act.

The majority said it “respectfully disagrees” with judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, who recently narrowly found just the opposite. A split in interpreting federal statutes is usually an invitation for the Supreme Court to resolve the issue.

The court noted that there are numerous rulings that held corporations have free speech rights, but said there was a “total absence of caselaw” to support the argument that corporations are protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion. Apparently, the court thinks that only part of the First Amendment applies to corporations.

“Even if we were to disregard the lack of historical recognition of the right, we simply cannot understand how a for-profit, secular corporation — apart from its owners — can exercise religion,” wrote Circuit Judge Robert E. Cowen, who was joined by Circuit Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie.

Here’s how the judges can discern how to apply the law: Find out how free speech rights can be exercised by corporations — and then you’ll have the answer.

This divide between courts increases the chances that the Supreme Court in its coming term will need to settle the issue. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will do a better job of securing our religious freedoms that the lower courts have done.

(Via: Gene Veith)

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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