For Now, Religious Colleges Still Have to Cover Contraception

The decision in the Hobby Lobby case week, in which U.S. Supreme Court determined that privately held corporations could be exempt from components of laws to which their owners religiously object, was potentially interesting to many colleges.

A few schools, after the passage of Obamacare, indicated similar concerns about their health insurance policies covering things like contraception. Many Catholic colleges baulked at being forced to cover birth control.


But there is, according to this post at Inside Higher Ed, no change for America’s Christian institutions:

While there are several lawsuits by religious colleges making cases in some ways similar to Hobby Lobby, the business by which Monday’s ruling is known, the ruling was very specific about applying only to certain kinds of for-profit businesses.

Via email, Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, said: “As with many court decisions, this one doesn’t necessarily lend itself to quick summarization, but it appears that today’s ruling does not have immediate bearing on nonprofit, religious-based colleges.”

Many of these schools, like Hobby Lobby, discovered that their health care shouldn’t cover contraception only after the passage of Obamacare, having cheerfully covered such drugs for years without concern, but it doesn’t really matter here. The Hobby Lobby ruling is actually pretty narrow here.

At least for now, anyway. As many observers have pointed out, no matter how narrow this particular ruling is, it’s opening the door to all sorts of creative interpretations of what drugs company polices could cover. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in her dissent:

Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”

Let’s see what’s next.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer