In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that certain employers may opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to include contraceptives in their health insurance plans. According to the decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, this mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and cannot be forced on “closely-held” corporations such as Hobby Lobby which hold strong religious beliefs that life begins at conception.
So what exactly is a closely-held corporation? The Internal Revenue Service defines it as one that “has more than 50% of the value of its outstanding stock owned (directly or indirectly) by 5 or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of the tax year; and is not a personal service corporation.” So a family-owned corporation like Hobby Lobby would fall into this category.
Legal analysts are calling this the biggest decision of the high court’s term, according to NPR News. Justice Alito went on record saying, “We doubt that the Congress that enacted [Religious Freedom Restoration Act]— or, for that matter, ACA–would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans.”
As Politico points out, this is the first time the Supreme Court has allowed companies the ability to declare a religious belief–a decision which may potentially reverberate throughout other areas of the law as well.