Document Type

Supreme Court Commentaries

Publication Date



Affordable Care Act, Religious Freedom and Restoration Act

Subject Category

Constitutional Law | Supreme Court of the United States


The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that eligible religious organizations submit a notice objecting to providing their employees contraceptive coverage if they religiously object to contraception or abortifacients is as simple as filing a piece of paper. But to a collection of Catholic petitioners, complying with this requirement gives rise to “scandal” and causes them to “materially cooperate” with sin. Filing a piece of paper may seem far outside any exercise of religion, but these groups sincerely believe that the one page notice burdens their religious beliefs.

Zubik v. Burwell, like Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, presents a conflict between the ACA and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute that gives religious groups a shield and a sword against federal laws and regulations that interfere with their free exercise of religion. In Hobby Lobby the Supreme Court held that RFRA prohibits the Government from forcing certain closely-held, religious corporations to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. Here, the author argues that the Court should extend Hobby Lobby and hold that the accommodation impermissibly burdens these religious groups’ beliefs under the demanding RFRA statute.