In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case as precedent in granting a business a waiver on the Affordable Care Act’s provision ordering employers to cover birth control costs in their healthcare plans.
Think Progress reported that the order (PDF) by Judges Joel Flaum and Diane Sykes explained that, while the plaintiffs, Cyril and Jane Korte, owned nearly 88 percent of a secular for-profit contracting businesses, they ran the company according to their own religious beliefs. The Kortes had sued the government saying the mandate violated their religious liberties.
“That the Kortes operate their business in the corporate form is not dispositive of their claim,” the judges said in their order. “See generally Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010). The contraception mandate applies to K & L Contractors as an employer of more than 50 employees, and the Kortes would have to violate their religious beliefs to operate their company in compliance with it.”
The court’s decision runs counter to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in not only United States v. Lee, in which the high court ruled that freedom of religion does not allow a business to “impose the employer’s religious faith on the employees,” but also a Dec. 28 decision not to hear an injunction request by the owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of crafts stores seeking similar immunity from the ACA’s rules on the matter.
The Citizens United ruling two years ago allowed for unions and corporations to spend freely on political campaigns, provided they were not working in tandem with the candidates they were endorsing. Since then it has been criticized for opening the door to widespread political influence by “SuperPAC” partisan groups, to the point where President Barack Obama’s administration said it would back a constitutional amendment overturning the high court’s decision.
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