The Supreme Court issued a bombshell ruling Monday giving certain corporations the right to deny workers insurance that covers birth control if doing so violates the company’s religious beliefs.
That ruling in favour of the Christian-owned arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby struck down a key part of Obamacare.
In her blistering dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned the ruling could pave the way for employers to refuse to offer insurance covering an array of healthcare needs they believe are against their religion.
“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,” Ginsburg warned.
The Supreme Court’s majority cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is aimed at preventing laws that hinder people from expressing their First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The conservative majority said this law applies to privately-owned, for-profit businesses rather than just people or churches.
Depending on the religion of a company’s owners, they may try to use the Hobby Lobby decision to justify refusing to pay for insurance that covers any procedure or medicine the employer believes violates their religion.
“There’s really no limit,” Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, told Business Insider. “It just depends on the particularities of the business owner’s religion. That’s what makes Hobby Lobby such a groundbreaking opinion.”
Some of the healthcare, other than birth control, that employers might stop covering for their employees includes blood transfusions, as Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God said in the Bible that humans can’t ingest blood. Also, vaccines that include cell linings from aborted fetuses conflict with the religious ideologies of the Catholic Church among other prominent religions.
In addition, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, which have obvious conflicts with numerous religious ideologies, as well as psychiatric counseling, fall into the category of healthcare employers may decide to stop covering.
The idea that corporations have religious rights may pave the way for other court battles, though it’s tough to tell exactly what those fights may look like.
“It’s hard to imagine what other religious rights corporations would seek,” Winkler said. “They can’t go to church, fast on Yom Kippur or travel to Mecca for Ramadan. Most religious activity is that of human beings, not of fictional, artificial creatures like corporations.”
However, Winkler did say the Hobby Lobby decision may open the door for companies to use their new religious rights to discriminate against gay people.
“The Court in Hobby Lobby made clear that its decision would not allow companies to discriminate on the basis of race,” he said. “Omitted, however, was any mention of anti-LGBT discrimination. The Court has left open whether wedding cake makers can refuse to serve LGBT customers.”
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