A corporate conscience?
WHEN the Citizens United decision came down in 2010, 80% of Americans were unhappy to learn that political speech by corporations was protected under the first amendment. Three years later an effort to undermine Obamacare by expanding the constitutional rights of corporations is quietly gaining ground in the courts. The campaign, summarised here, includes some 73 cases challenging the law’s requirement that health-insurance plans provided by large employers include coverage for birth control. (A limited exemption—which Republicans are trying to expand—applies to religious organisations.) This contraceptive mandate, detractors say, presents organisations owned by religious individuals opposed to certain forms of birth control with a dilemma: abandon their beliefs or pay a hefty fine of up to $100 per employee per day.
Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet manufacturer with 950 employees in Pennsylvania, is one of the plaintiffs challenging the mandate. Conestoga is owned and run by the Hahns, a Mennonite family that considers two forms of birth control—the emergency contraceptives known as Plan B and ella—to be the sinful taking of embryonic life. The family has objected to Obamacare’s mandate on constitutional grounds and under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law requiring that “substantial burdens” on religious exercise be justified by a compelling state interest. . .[Read more]