Religious organizations win, lose in contraception mandate cases

Published: Thursday, Dec. 20 2012 5:00 p.m. MST

Federal judges have ruled in five of those cases, granting requests to block the mandate for three companies pending the outcome of the cases.

Hobby Lobby's lawsuit claimed the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its Christian founder and CEO David Green and his family by requiring insurance coverage for the so-called "morning-after" and "week-after" birth-control pills.

A federal judge denied the Oklahoma-based company's request for an injunction, finding that the religious burden was indirect, rejecting previous appellate court rulings that found there is no distinction between direct and indirect burdens that government places on businesses.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Hobby Lobby's emergency request for an injunction.

“The Green family is disappointed with this ruling,” Duncan said. “They simply asked for a temporary halt to the mandate while their appeal goes forward, and now they must seek relief from the United States Supreme Court. The Greens will continue to make their case on appeal that this unconstitutional mandate infringes their right to earn a living while remaining true to their faith.”

Shifting opinions

Public opinion on the issue has gradually shifted in support of the mandate in the past year.

In November, a survey by Lifeway Research, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, found a majority of adults believe all businesses and organizations, even those with conflicting religious principles, should be required to provide coverage of contraception and birth control for their employees.

An earlier survey by the Public Religion Research Institute had similar results. It also found few people (6 percent) considered the contraception mandate a threat to religious liberty.

A Pew Research Center survey in February showed opinions closely divided over the question of institutions being granted a religious exemption from the mandate, with 48 percent supporting and 44 percent against such an exemption.

But a CBS/New York Times poll in March found 57 percent said religious-affiliated employers should be able to opt out of the mandate.

While the polls used varying terminology that could influence a response for or against the mandate, Dan Cox, research director at Public Religion Research Institute, said such nuances wouldn't affect results dramatically.

"As pollsters we always try to ensure the questions accurately reflect the parameters of the debate or the substance of the policy while remaining as concise as possible," he said. "It can be a difficult balance."

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