The Affordable Care Act requires employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception for their female employees. Churches and religious institutions are exempt from that mandate.
But as Ed Whelan pointed out in his vivisection of the NYT editorial today, it is not the ACA itself, the statute, that imposes the mandate to offer this coverage. That was a course freely chosen by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was not compelled by the law to impose this particular requirement on employers. Sebelius did it, and President Obama has backed her up, on the hustings (“war on women!”) and in court. This is not a mandate imposed by Congress.
And while churches are exempt from the mandate, it is not true that “religious institutions” are exempt. They got only a phony “accommodation,” in which they are obliged to do everything necessary to make the coverage available to their employees, while lying to them about their responsibility for the coverage, and joining with the government in the falsehood that the coverage costs no one a cent.