The Obama Administration went to war with religious dissenters to its HHS rule that required most employers to provide free insurance coverage of contraceptives and the morning after pill. This led to the ridiculous circumstance in which the feds litigated against nuns and to a big Supreme Court loss for Obama in the Hobby Lobby ruling under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
President Trump issued an executive order in May 2017 requiring HHS to reconsider the very narrow conscience exemption its regulations allowed. That order has now borne fruit. HHS will issue two final rules revising the contraception mandate to relieve those with religious and moral objections from compelled contraceptive insurance coverage.
The first of today’s final rules provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to entities that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. The second final rule provides protections to nonprofit organizations and small businesses that have non-religious moral convictions opposing services covered by the mandate.
The religious and moral exemptions provided by these rules also apply to institutions of education, issuers, and individuals.
The Departments are not extending the moral exemption to publicly traded businesses, or either exemption to government entities.
That last bit makes great sense. A publicly traded company cannot possibly have a religious or moral position on the question, since its owners are stockholders who will each have different views. And government cannot promote a religious perspective as this would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
This is elementary politics and really something the Obama Administration should have allowed from the beginning. Indeed, I believe the naked hostility exhibited by Obama’s HHS to religious liberty contributed mightily to the election of President Trump. Hillary Clinton would probably have been even more hostile than Obama, which I think, c0nvinced many Christians to vote for Trump–not exactly a man known for personal moral probity–out of sheer self defense.
Demonstrating the point, the accompanying fact sheet states that only about 200 employers of 6400 women will be affected. Granting those companies a conscience exemption in the first place would have saved Obama and the Democrats a lot of grief.