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Recent Decision of the

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Syllabus

BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN
SERVICES, ET AL. v. HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC., ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

No. 13–354. Argued March 25, 2014—Decided June 30, 2014

Judges Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas joined in the majority opinion.

     The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the “Government [from] substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless the Government “demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” 42 U. S. C. §§2000bb–1(a), (b). As amended by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), RFRA covers “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” §2000cc–5(7)(A). At issue here are regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), which, as relevant here, requires specified employers’ group health plans to furnish “preventive care and screenings” for women without “any cost sharing requirements,”42 U. S. C. §300gg–13(a)(4). Congress did not specify what types of preventive care must be covered; it authorized the Health Resources and Services Administration, a component of HHS, to decide. Ibid. Nonexempt employers are generally required to provide coverage for the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including the 4 that may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus. Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from this contraceptive mandate. HHS has also effectively exempted religious nonprofit organizations with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services. Under this accommodation, the insurance issuer must exclude contraceptive coverage from the employer’s plan and provide plan participants with separate payments for contraceptive services without imposing any cost sharing requirements on the employer, its insurance plan, or its employee beneficiaries. 

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