A sraightforward and easy to understand explanation as to why the Obama/HHS contraception/sterilization/abortion mandate is unconstitutional. The op ed is not very long - 16 paragraphs - but very comprehensive.
The birth-control coverage mandate violates the First Amendment's bar against the "free exercise" of religion. But it also violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That statute, passed unanimously by the House of Representatives and by a 97-3 vote in the Senate, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. It was enacted in response to a 1990 Supreme Court opinion, Employment Division v. Smith.
That case limited the protections available under the First Amendment's guarantee of free exercise of religion to those government actions that explicitly targeted religious practices, by subjecting them to difficult-to-satisfy strict judicial scrutiny. Other governmental actions, even if burdening religious activities, were held subject to a more deferential test.
The 1993 law restored the same protections of religious freedom that had been understood to exist pre-Smith. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act states that the federal government may "substantially burden" a person's "exercise of religion" only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person "is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest" and "is the least restrictive means of furthering" that interest.
The refusal, for religious reasons, to provide birth-control coverage is clearly an exercise of religious freedom under the Constitution. The "exercise of religion" extends to performing, or refusing to perform, actions on religious grounds—and it is definitely not confined to religious institutions or acts of worship. Leading Supreme Court cases in this area, for example, involve a worker who refused to work on the Sabbath (Sherbert v. Verner, 1963) and parents who refused to send their teenage children to a public high school (Wisconsin v. Yoder, 1972).
In the high-school case, the Supreme Court found that even a $5 fine on the parents substantially burdened the free exercise of their religion. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers who fail to comply with the birth-control mandate will incur an annual penalty of roughly $2,000 per employee. So it is clearly a substantial burden.
Does the mandate further the governmental interest in increasing cost-free access to contraceptives by means that are least restrictive of the employer's religious freedom? Plainly, the answer is no. There are plenty of other ways to increase access to contraceptives that intrude far less on the free exercise of religion.
Health and Human Services itself touts community health centers, public clinics and hospitals as some of the available alternatives; doctors and pharmacies are others. Many of the entities, with Planned Parenthood being the most prominent, already furnish free contraceptives. The government could have the rest of these providers make contraceptive services available free and then compensate them directly. A mandate on employers who object for religious reasons is among the most restrictive means the government could have chosen to increase access.
The mandate also fails the "compelling government interest" test. Given the widespread availability of contraceptive services, and the far less restrictive other ways to increase their availability, the government can hardly claim it has a "compelling" interest in marginally increasing access to birth control by requiring objecting employers to join in this effort.
In an effort to rally its base in the upcoming November election, the Obama administration seems more interested in punishing religiously based opposition to contraception and abortion than in marginally increasing access to contraception services. ...
... the birth-control mandate violates both statutory law and the Constitution. The fact that the administration promulgated it so flippantly, without seriously engaging on these issues, underscores how little it cares about either.