Religious Poll Finds Majority of Americans Support Mandatory Contraception Coverage

A recent survey taken by LifeWay Research shows a majority of adults in the U.S. believe businesses and organizations should be mandated to provide contraception and birth control for their employees. Interestingly, the respondents feel even organizations and businesses with strong religious objections should not be exempted.

According to the LifeWay Research survey, nearly 63 percent of American adults agree businesses should be required to provide their employees with free contraception and birth control, even if it runs counter to the owners' religious principles. Twenty-eight percent disagree and 10 percent selected "Don't Know."

Earlier this year, the Obama administration set off a firestorm when the Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate requiring all employers to provide contraception and birth control free of charge to all employees. Religious groups, led by Catholic bishops, rejected the mandate, saying it violated individual and institutional religious beliefs.

Since the late January announcement, dozens of religious groups and businesses have filed suit claiming the HHS mandate violates the Constitution under the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

However, the opinions are slightly different when the religious affiliation of the organization is taken into consideration. Fifty-three percent agree Catholic and other religious schools, hospitals, and charities should be required to provide the coverage, while 33 percent disagree.

In considering whether nonprofits should be required to provide the coverage, 56 percent of adults agree and 32 percent disagree they should be required to follow the mandate even if it goes against their religious beliefs.

"It is easy for Americans to desire to protect the freedoms of individuals over unnamed business entities," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. "However, such generalizations may overlook the fact that more than 90 percent of businesses with employees are family businesses. Recent lawsuits contend that the religious freedoms of these families conflict with healthcare choices desired by individuals."

But companies such as Hobby Lobby and Tyndale House Publishers have filed lawsuits challenging the measure with varying degrees of success. On Nov. 16, a federal court ruled in favor of faith-based Tyndale House Publishers, which filed a health care lawsuit against the government to halt enforcement of the mandate on the grounds of religious conviction.

However, three days later another court ruled against the suit brought by the Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby retail stores, stating the owners' beliefs were only "indirectly" burdened by the mandate's requirement that they provide free coverage for contraception and birth control in Hobby Lobby's self-funded insurance plan.

Hobby Lobby, which filed an appeal of the judgment, faces fines of more than $1.3 million per day if they are not in compliance with the mandate.

Younger Americans are the least likely to "Strongly Disagree" (less than 10 percent) with businesses and organizations being required to follow the mandate.

"The religious freedom that the United States pioneered is not a freedom of belief, but a freedom to practice that faith," said Stetzer. "The American public appears unaware or unconcerned that some religious organizations and family businesses indicate fear of losing the freedom to practice their faith under the new healthcare regulations."

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