Why Are Secular Businesses Claiming Religious Rights?
“Can a corporation exercise religion?” federal district court judge John L. Kane recently asked. He answered his own question with a provisional yes. In Newland v Sebelius, the court granted a commercial enterprise a temporary injunction exempting it, for now, from providing female employees with coverage for contraception and sterilization required by the Affordable Care Act. The law exempts religious employers from these requirements, and the Obama administration has offered compromises to Church-affiliated non-profits. But the Newland case seeking and at least temporarily securing exemptions from a generally applicable federal law for an entirely secular enterprise is a new frontier.
If religious objections to contraception and sterilization merit an exemption from federal law, then so could religious objections to hiring gay people or single mothers (or married ones, for that matter). Why, after all, should religious teachings on reproduction be privileged over other articles of faith? If the principle underlying the Newland injunction takes hold, it’s hard to imagine any strongly held belief of any religious group that would not merit an exemption from a burdensome federal law.