The contraceptive mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act has had a roller coaster ride of appeals and extensions, and many Americans are still confused about just what it comprises. Now, as confusion whirls, a new wrinkle is added to the case before the Supreme Court as a secular humanist group has filed an amicus brief requesting the court to deny the appeal.
In case you’re one of the many Americans who aren’t quite sure what is going on, here’s the general gist:
First, the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, contained a contraceptive mandate, or, in simple terms, a birth control rule. Employers who provide health plans as a part of their employee benefit package are required to choose plans that cover birth control methods.
However, since some religious organizations claim that providing health insurance that covers contraceptives is against their core beliefs, a separate option was offered. These employers could file a form that basically said, hey, we won’t cover that because we don’t believe in it, and their employees would be able to get contraceptive coverage through a third-party insurance provider, without their employer having involvement in the matter.
However, these exceptions apply specifically to religious organizations, not to for-profit companies. Companies such as Hobby Lobby may claim a religion, but the question before the court is whether a business (rather than a person) can have religious beliefs, and religious rights.
Today, in a new turn of the case, Center for Inquiry, a science-promoting secular group, has filed an amicus brief, asking the justices to deny these exemptions to Hobby Lobby, and to any other for-profit businesses who might request the same.
An amicus curiae is a document with information for the court, provided by someone who is not a party to the case and has not been asked for the information, but feels that he has a stake or interest in the case.
In the amicus, Center for Inquiry asks the court to deny further exemptions, saying that to do so would be to allow employers to impose their religious beliefs on their employees who may not share them.
Health care benefits are part of an employee’s compensation, so employers who object to employees’ use of health care benefits to obtain contraception are no more burdened than a Mormon employer whose workers use their salary to buy coffee.