Religion and Law

November 7, 2014 • Volume 24, Issue 40
Have religious liberty claims gone too far?
By Kenneth Jost


Sister Caroline (Getty Images/Scott Olsen)
Sister Caroline celebrates the Supreme Court's decision in the so-called Hobby Lobby case at a rally in Chicago. The June 30, 2014, ruling exempted some employers from an Obama administration requirement under the Affordable Care Act that employee health plans offer free contraceptives. The 5-4 decision recognized religious objections to the birth control mandate. (Getty Images/Scott Olsen)

Courts are faced with an increasing number of cases dealing with conflicts between religion and law. The Supreme Court opened a new door to religious liberty claims in June when it allowed some employers an exemption from the Obama administration's mandate to include coverage for contraceptives in employee health plans. The decision marked the first explicit holding that secular, for-profit corporations can claim an exemption under federal laws protecting religious rights. Social conservatives and many faith groups praised the decision. Women's health groups and advocates of church-state separation argue it may limit access to contraceptives. A similar conflict is developing as some businesses claim religious objections to providing services to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals. Religious conservatives say government regulation threatens religious liberty; church-state separationists say religious beliefs should not take precedence over the law. Meanwhile, some local governing bodies appear to be taking advantage of a Supreme Court decision that gave them wider discretion to open meetings with religious invocations.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Religion and Politics
Jan. 01, 2016  Religious Freedom
Nov. 07, 2014  Religion and Law
Oct. 19, 2012  Understanding Mormonism
Jan. 03, 2012  Sharia Controversy
Jan. 15, 2010  Government and Religion
Feb. 2009  Religious Fundamentalism
Dec. 07, 2007  Protestants Today
Jan. 19, 2007  Future of the Catholic Church
Jul. 30, 2004  Religion and Politics
Nov. 21, 1997  Religious Persecution
Sep. 08, 1995  Catholic Church in the U.S.
Nov. 25, 1994  Religion in America
Oct. 14, 1994  Religion and Politics
Sep. 12, 1986  Getting Religion in Politics
Dec. 14, 1984  Balancing Church and State
Aug. 27, 1976  Politics and Religion
Sep. 09, 1959  Religion in Politics
Jul. 24, 1942  Churches and War
Aug. 15, 1928  American Churches in National Politics
Apr. 09, 1927  The Religious Issue in American Politics
Aug. 01, 1926  The Religious Conflict in Mexico
Domestic Issues
Religion and Politics
Religious Freedom
Religious Movements