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USA Today Editorial, Op-Ed Debate Religious Exemptions for Businesses

USA Today Editorial, Op-Ed Debate Religious Exemptions for Businesses

March 26, 2014 — USA Today on Tuesday published an editorial and an opposing opinion piece addressing arguments in two businesses' challenges to the federal contraceptive coverage rules, which were argued on Tuesday before the Supreme Court. The rules require most employers to offer contraceptive coverage in their health plans, which the businesses' owners say violates their religious beliefs. Summaries appear below.

~ USA Today: "[U]nless the [Supreme Court] can devise a way to finesse the issue very narrowly," it should not allow for-profit corporations to "get similar consideration" as houses of worship and religiously affiliated not-for-profits under the contraceptive coverage rules, a USA Today editorial states. According to USA Today, the court has "repeatedly rejected" claims from "plaintiffs [who] have cited religious objections to argue that they shouldn't be subject to laws on racial quality, the military draft, child neglect, drug use and paying taxes," which has "draw[n] a line between laws that target or place a substantial burden on religion and those that set broad, nationally applicable standards that some may find objectionable." The editorial adds that business "owners shouldn't be able to take advantage of the benefits of incorporation while exempting themselves from responsibilities that apply to their competitors. Nor should they be able to impose their religious beliefs on their employees" (USA Today, 3/25).

~ Cathy Cleaver Ruse, USA Today: Cleaver Ruse, a senior legal fellow at the Family Research Council, argues that requiring business to offer contraceptive coverage "threatens the jobs, health plans and livelihood of millions of Americans" by forcing employers to "pay enormous fines for omitting even one mandated item from their health plans." She argues that the contraceptive coverage rules would "impose a terrible choice on" the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case by asking them "to abandon their religious beliefs or to honor their consciences and pay crippling fines." She writes that many small businesses "might simply close" or fire workers if faced with such penalties, adding that "drop[ping] employee health insurance altogether" also "would trigger endless annual penalties for the business, and its employees would lose their health plans and their trusted doctors." Cleaver Ruse concludes, "The Obama administration has already let millions of individual insurance policies off the hook for reasons far less compelling," adding, "Respecting conscience is a tradition Americans hold dear" and "should not abandon" (Cleaver Ruse, USA Today, 3/25).