*fn1,The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Alito,SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC., ET AL. AND CONESTOGA WOOD SPECIALTIES CORPORATION ET AL., PETITIONERS v. SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL." />

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Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

United States Supreme Court

June 30, 2014

SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL., PETITIONERS
v.
HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC., ET AL. AND CONESTOGA WOOD SPECIALTIES CORPORATION ET AL., PETITIONERS
v.
SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL

Argued: March 25, 2014. [*]

[134 S.Ct. 2758] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

SYLLABUS

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the " Government [from] substantially burden[ing] a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability" unless the Government " demonstrates that application of the burden to the person--(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." 42 U.S.C. § § 2000bb-1(a), (b). As amended by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), RFRA covers " any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief." § 2000cc-5(7)(A).

At issue here are regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), which, as relevant here, requires specified employers' group health plans to furnish " preventive care and screenings" for women without " any cost sharing requirements," 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13(a)(4). Congress did not specify what types of preventive care must be covered; it authorized the Health Resources and Services Administration, a component of HHS, to decide. Ibid . Nonexempt employers are generally required to provide coverage for the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including the 4 that may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus. Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from this contraceptive mandate. HHS has also effectively exempted religious nonprofit organizations with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services. Under this accommodation, the insurance issuer must exclude contraceptive coverage from the employer's plan and provide plan participants with separate payments for contraceptive services without imposing any cost-sharing requirements on the employer, its insurance plan, or its employee beneficiaries.

In these cases, the owners of three closely held for-profit corporations have sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point. In separate actions, they sued HHS and other federal officials and agencies (collectively HHS) under RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause, seeking to enjoin application of the contraceptive mandate insofar as it requires them to provide health coverage for the four objectionable contraceptives. In No. 13-356, the District Court denied the Hahns and their company--Conestoga Wood Specialties--a preliminary injunction. Affirming, the Third Circuit held that a for-profit corporation could not " engage in religious exercise" under RFRA or the First Amendment, and that the mandate imposed no requirements on the Hahns in their personal capacity. In No. 13-354, the Greens, their children, and their companies--Hobby Lobby Stores and Mardel--were also denied a preliminary injunction, but the Tenth Circuit reversed. It held that the Greens' businesses are " persons" under RFRA, and that the corporations had established a likelihood of success on their RFRA claim because the contraceptive mandate substantially burdened their exercise of religion and HHS had not demonstrated a compelling interest in enforcing the mandate against them; in the alternative, the court held that HHS had not proved that the mandate was the " least restrictive means" of furthering a compelling governmental interest.

Held :

As applied to closely held corporations, the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA. Pp. 16-49.

(a) RFRA applies to regulations that govern the activities of closely held for-profit corporations like Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel. Pp. 16-31.

(1) HHS argues that the companies cannot sue because they are for-profit corporations, and that the owners cannot sue because the regulations apply only to the companies, but that would leave merchants with a difficult choice: give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits of operating as corporations. RFRA's text shows that Congress designed the statute to provide very broad protection for religious liberty and did not intend to put merchants to such a choice. It employed the familiar legal fiction of including corporations within RFRA's definition of " persons," but the purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporation, including shareholders, officers, and employees. Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them. Pp. 16-19.

(2) HHS and the dissent make several unpersuasive arguments. Pp. 19-31.

(i) Nothing in RFRA suggests a congressional intent to depart from the Dictionary Act definition of " person," which " include[s] corporations, . . . as well as individuals." 1 U.S.C. § 1. The Court has entertained RFRA and free-exercise claims brought by nonprofit corporations. See, e.g., Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418, 126 S.Ct. 1211, 163 L.Ed.2d 1017. And HHS's concession that a nonprofit corporation can be a " person" under RFRA effectively dispatches any argument that the term does not reach for-profit corporations; no conceivable definition of " person" includes natural persons and nonprofit corporations, but not for-profit corporations. Pp. 19-20.

(ii) HHS and the dissent nonetheless argue that RFRA does not cover Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel because they cannot " exercise . . . religion." They offer no persuasive explanation for this conclusion. The corporate form alone cannot explain it because RFRA indisputably protects nonprofit corporations. And the profit-making objective of the corporations cannot explain it because the Court has entertained the free-exercise claims of individuals who were attempting to make a profit as retail merchants. Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 81 S.Ct. 1144, 6 L.Ed.2d 563. Business practices compelled or limited by the tenets of a religious doctrine fall comfortably within the understanding of the " exercise of religion" that this Court set out in Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 877, 110 S.Ct. 1595, 108 L.Ed.2d 876. Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law. States, including those in which the plaintiff corporations were incorporated, authorize corporations to pursue any lawful purpose or business, including the pursuit of profit in conformity with the owners' religious principles. Pp. 20-25.

(iii) Also flawed is the claim that RFRA offers no protection because it only codified pre- Smith Free Exercise Clause precedents, none of which squarely recognized free-exercise rights for for-profit corporations. First, nothing in RFRA as originally enacted suggested that its definition of " exercise of religion" was meant to be tied to pre- Smith interpretations of the First Amendment. Second, if RFRA's original text were not clear enough, the RLUIPA amendment surely dispels any doubt that Congress intended to separate the definition of the phrase from that in First Amendment case law. Third, the pre- Smith case of Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Mass., Inc., 366 U.S. 617, 81 S.Ct. 1122, 6 L.Ed.2d 536, suggests, if anything, that for-profit corporations can exercise religion. Finally, the results would be absurd if RFRA, a law enacted to provide very broad protection for religious liberty, merely restored this Court's pre- Smith decisions in ossified form and restricted RFRA claims to plaintiffs who fell within a category of plaintiffs whose claims the Court had recognized before Smith . Pp. 25-28.

(3) Finally, HHS contends that Congress could not have wanted RFRA to apply to for-profit corporations because of the difficulty of ascertaining the " beliefs" of large, publicly traded corporations, but HHS has not pointed to any example of a publicly traded corporation asserting RFRA rights, and numerous practical restraints would likely prevent that from occurring. HHS has also provided no evidence that the purported problem of determining the sincerity of an asserted religious belief moved Congress to exclude for-profit corporations from RFRA's protection. That disputes among the owners of corporations might arise is not a problem unique to this context. State corporate law provides a ready means for resolving any conflicts by, for example, dictating how a corporation can establish its governing structure. Courts will turn to that structure and the underlying state law in resolving disputes. Pp. 29-31.

(b) HHS's contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion. Pp. 31-38.

(1) It requires the Hahns and Greens to engage in conduct that seriously violates their sincere religious belief that life begins at conception. If they and their companies refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, they face severe economic consequences: about $475 million per year for Hobby Lobby, $33 million per year for Conestoga, and $15 million per year for Mardel. And if they drop coverage altogether, they could face penalties of roughly $26 million for Hobby Lobby, $1.8 million for Conestoga, and $800,000 for Mardel. P. 32.

(2) Amici supporting HHS argue that the $2,000 per-employee penalty is less than the average cost of providing insurance, and therefore that dropping insurance coverage eliminates any substantial burden imposed by the mandate. HHS has never argued this and the Court does not know its position with respect to the argument. But even if the Court reached the argument, it would find it unpersuasive: It ignores the fact that the plaintiffs have religious reasons for providing health-insurance coverage for their employees, and it is far from clear that the net cost to the companies of providing insurance is more than the cost of dropping their insurance plans and paying the ACA penalty. Pp. 32-35.

(3) HHS argues that the connection between what the objecting parties must do and the end that they find to be morally wrong is too attenuated because it is the employee who will choose the coverage and contraceptive method she uses. But RFRA's question is whether the mandate imposes a substantial burden on the objecting parties' ability to conduct business in accordance with their religious beliefs. The belief of the Hahns and Greens implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is immoral for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facilitating the commission of an immoral act by another. It is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs are mistaken or unreasonable. In fact, this Court considered and rejected a nearly identical argument in Thomas v. Review Bd. of Indiana Employment Security Div., 450 U.S. 707, 101 S.Ct. 1425, 67 L.Ed.2d 624. The Court's " narrow function . . . is to determine" whether the plaintiffs' asserted religious belief reflects " an honest conviction," id., at 716, 101 S.Ct. 1425, 67 L.Ed.2d 624, and there is no dispute here that it does. Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672, 689, 91 S.Ct. 2091, 29 L.Ed.2d 790; and Board of Ed. of Central School Dist. No. 1 v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 248-249, 88 S.Ct. 1923, 20 L.Ed.2d 1060, distinguished. Pp. 35-38.

(c) The Court assumes that the interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods is a compelling governmental interest, but the Government has failed to show that the contraceptive mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Pp. 38-49.

(1) The Court assumes that the interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods is compelling within the meaning of RFRA. Pp. 39-40.

(2) The Government has failed to satisfy RFRA's least-restrictive-means standard. HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. The Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers' religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to non-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. That accommodation does not impinge on the plaintiffs' religious beliefs that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion and it still serves HHS's stated interests. Pp. 40-45.

(3) This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer's religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice. United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252, 102 S.Ct. 1051, 71 L.Ed.2d 127, which upheld the payment of Social Security taxes despite an employer's religious objection, is not analogous. It turned primarily on the special problems associated with a national system of taxation; and if Lee were a RFRA case, the fundamental point would still be that there is no less restrictive alternative to the categorical requirement to pay taxes. Here, there is an alternative to the contraceptive mandate. Pp. 45-49.

No. 13-354, 723 F.3d 1114, affirmed; No. 13-356, 724 F.3d 377, reversed and remanded.

Paul D. Clement argued the cause for private parties.

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. argued the cause for the federal government.

ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a concurring opinion. GINSBURG, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined, and in which BREYER and KAGAN, JJ., joined as to all but Part III-C-1. BREYER and KAGAN, JJ., filed a dissenting opinion.

OPINION

[134 S.Ct. 2759] ALITO, JUSTICE.

We must decide in these cases whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 107 Stat. 1488, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq., permits the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to demand that three closely held corporations provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies' owners. We hold that the regulations that impose this obligation violate RFRA, which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest.

In holding that the HHS mandate is unlawful, we reject HHS's argument that the owners of the companies forfeited all RFRA protection when they decided to organize their businesses as corporations rather than sole proprietorships or general partnerships. The plain terms of RFRA make it perfectly clear that Congress did not discriminate in this way against men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.

Since RFRA applies in these cases, we must decide whether the challenged HHS regulations substantially burden the exercise of religion, and we hold that they do. The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price--as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.

Under RFRA, a Government action that imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise must serve a compelling government interest, and we assume that the HHS regulations satisfy this requirement. But in order for the HHS mandate to be sustained, it must also constitute the least restrictive means of serving that interest, and the mandate plainly fails that test. There are other ways in which Congress or HHS could equally ensure that every woman has cost-free access to the particular contraceptives at issue here and, indeed, to all FDA-approved contraceptives.

In fact, HHS has already devised and implemented a system that seeks to respect the religious liberty of religious nonprofit corporations while ensuring that the employees of these entities have precisely the same access to all FDA-approved contraceptives as employees of companies whose owners have no religious objections to providing such coverage. The employees of these religious nonprofit corporations still have access to insurance coverage without cost sharing for all FDA-approved contraceptives; and according to HHS, this system imposes no net economic burden on the insurance companies that are required to provide or secure the coverage.

Although HHS has made this system available to religious nonprofits that have religious objections to the contraceptive mandate, HHS has provided no reason why the same system cannot be made available when the owners of for-profit corporations have similar religious objections. We therefore conclude that this system constitutes an alternative that achieves all of the Government's aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty. And under RFRA, that conclusion means that enforcement of the [134 S.Ct. 2760] HHS contraceptive mandate against the objecting parties in these cases is unlawful.

As this description of our reasoning shows, our holding is very specific. We do not hold, as the principal dissent alleges, that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can " opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs." Post, at 1 (opinion of GINSBURG, J.). Nor do we hold, as the dissent implies, that such corporations have free rein to take steps that impose " disadvantages . . . on others" or that require " the general public [to] pick up the tab." Post, at 1-2 . And we certainly do not hold or suggest that " RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation's religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on . . . thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby." Post, at 2. [1] The effect of the HHS-created accommodation on the women employed by Hobby Lobby and the other companies involved in these cases would be precisely zero. Under that accommodation, these women would still be entitled to all FDA-approved contraceptives without cost sharing.

I

A

Congress enacted RFRA in 1993 in order to provide very broad protection for religious liberty . RFRA's enactment came three years after this Court's decision in Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 110 S.Ct. 1595, 108 L.Ed.2d 876 (1990), which largely repudiated the method of analyzing free-exercise claims that had been used in cases like Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 83 S.Ct. 1790, 10 L.Ed.2d 965 (1963), and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972). In determining whether challenged government actions violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, those decisions used a balancing test that took into account whether the challenged action imposed a substantial burden on the practice of religion, and if it did, whether it was needed to serve a compelling government interest. Applying this test, the Court held in Sherbert that an employee who was fired for refusing to work on her Sabbath could not be denied unemployment benefits. 374 U.S., at 408-409, 83 S.Ct. 1790, 10 L.Ed.2d 965. And in Yoder, the Court held that Amish children could not be required to comply with a state law demanding that they remain in school until the age of 16 even though their religion required them to focus on uniquely Amish values and beliefs during their formative adolescent years. 406 U.S., at 210-211, 234-236, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 32 L.Ed.2d 15.

In Smith, however, the Court rejected " the balancing test set forth in Sherbert ." 494 U.S., at 883, 110 S.Ct. 1595, 108 L.Ed.2d 876. Smith concerned two members of the Native American Church who were fired for ingesting peyote for sacramental purposes. When they sought unemployment benefits, the State of Oregon rejected their claims on the ground that consumption of peyote was a crime, but the Oregon Supreme Court, applying the Sherbert test, held that the denial of benefits violated the Free Exercise Clause. 494 U.S., at 875, 110 S.Ct. 1595, 108 L.Ed.2d 876.

This Court then reversed, observing that use of the Sherbert test whenever a person objected on religious grounds to the enforcement of a generally applicable law " would open the prospect of constitutionally [134 S.Ct. 2761] required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind." 494 U.S., at 888, 110 S.Ct. 1595, 108 L.Ed.2d 876. The Court therefore held that, under the First Amendment, " neutral, generally applicable laws may be applied to religious practices even when not supported by a compelling governmental interest." City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 514, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624 (1997).

Congress responded to Smith by enacting RFRA. " [L]aws [that are] 'neutral' toward religion," Congress found, " may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise." 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb(a)(2); see also § 2000bb(a)(4). In order to ensure broad protection for religious liberty, RFRA provides that " Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability." § 2000bb-1(a). [2] If the Government substantially burdens a person's exercise of religion, under the Act that person is entitled to an exemption from the rule unless the Government " demonstrates that application of the burden to the person--(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." § 2000bb-1(b). [3]

As enacted in 1993, RFRA applied to both the Federal Government and the States, but the constitutional authority invoked for regulating federal and state agencies differed. As applied to a federal agency, RFRA is based on the enumerated power that supports the particular agency's work, [4] but in attempting to regulate the States and their subdivisions, Congress relied on its power under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to enforce the First Amendment. 521 U.S., at 516-517, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624. In City of Boerne, however, we held that Congress had overstepped its Section 5 authority because " [t]he stringent test RFRA demands" " far exceed[ed] any pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct under the Free Exercise Clause as interpreted in Smith ." Id., at 533-53, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 6244. See also id., at 532, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624.

Following our decision in City of Boerne, Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 114 Stat. 803, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq . That statute, enacted under Congress's Commerce and Spending Clause powers, imposes the same general test as RFRA but on a more limited category of governmental actions. See Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 715-716, 125 S.Ct. 2113, 161 L.Ed.2d 1020 (2005). And, what is most relevant for present purposes, RLUIPA amended RFRA's definition of the " exercise of religion." See § 2000bb-2(4) (importing RLUIPA definition). Before RLUIPA, RFRA's definition made reference to the First Amendment. See § 2000bb-2(4) (1994 ed.) (defining " exercise of religion" as " the exercise of religion under the First Amendment" ). In RLUIPA, in an obvious [134 S.Ct. 2762] effort to effect a complete separation from First Amendment case law, Congress deleted the reference to the First Amendment and defined the " exercise of religion" to include " any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief." § 2000cc-5(7)(A). And Congress mandated that this concept " be construed in favor of a broad protection of religious exercise, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this chapter and the Constitution." § 2000cc-3(g). [5]

B

At issue in these cases are HHS regulations promulgated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), 124 Stat. 119. ACA generally requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer " a group health plan or group health insurance coverage" that provides " minimum essential coverage." 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(f)(2); § § 4980H(a), (c)(2). Any covered employer that does not provide such coverage must pay a substantial price. Specifically, if a covered employer provides group health insurance but its plan fails to comply with ACA's group-health-plan requirements, the employer may be required to pay $100 per day for each affected " individual." § § 4980D(a)-(b). And if the employer decides to stop providing health insurance altogether and at least one full-time employee enrolls in a health plan and qualifies for a subsidy on one of the government-run ACA exchanges, the employer must pay $2,000 per year for each of its full-time employees. § § 4980H(a), (c)(1).

Unless an exception applies, ACA requires an employer's group health plan or group-health-insurance coverage to furnish " preventive care and screenings" for women without " any cost sharing requirements." 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13(a)(4). Congress itself, however, did not specify what types of preventive care must be covered. Instead, Congress authorized the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a component of HHS, to make that important and sensitive decision. Ibid . The HRSA in turn consulted the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit group of volunteer advisers, in determining which preventive services to require. See 77 Fed. Reg. 8725-8726 (2012).

In August 2011, based on the Institute's recommendations, the HRSA promulgated the Women's Preventive Services Guidelines. See id., at 8725-8726, and n. 1; online at http://hrsa.gov/womensguidelines (all Internet materials as visited June 26, 2014, and available in Clerk of Court's case file). The Guidelines provide that nonexempt employers are generally required to provide " coverage, without cost sharing" for " [a]ll Food and Drug Administration [(FDA)] approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling." 77 Fed. Reg. 8725 (internal quotation marks omitted). Although many of the required, FDA-approved methods of contraception work by preventing the fertilization of an egg, four of those methods (those specifically at issue in these cases) may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from [134 S.Ct. 2763] developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus. See Brief for HHS in No. 13-354, pp. 9-10, n. 4; [6] FDA, Birth Control: Medicines to Help You. [7]

HHS also authorized the HRSA to establish exemptions from the contraceptive mandate for " religious employers." 45 CFR § 147.131(a). That category encompasses " churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches," as well as " the exclusively religious activities of any religious order." See ibid (citing 26 U.S.C. § § 6033(a)(3)(A)(i), (iii)). In its Guidelines, HRSA exempted these organizations from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. See http://hrsa.gov/ womensguidelines.

In addition, HHS has effectively exempted certain religious nonprofit organizations, described under HHS regulations as " eligible organizations," from the contraceptive mandate. See 45 CFR § 147.131(b); 78 Fed. Reg. 39874 (2013). An " eligible organization" means a nonprofit organization that " holds itself out as a religious organization" and " opposes providing coverage for some or all of any contraceptive services required to be covered . . . on account of religious objections." 45 CFR § 147.131(b). To qualify for this accommodation, an employer must certify that it is such an organization. § 147.131(b)(4). When a group-health-insurance issuer receives notice that one of its clients has invoked this provision, the issuer must then exclude contraceptive coverage from the employer's plan and provide separate payments for contraceptive services for plan participants without imposing any cost-sharing requirements on the eligible organization, its insurance plan, or its employee beneficiaries. § 147.131(c). [8] Although this procedure requires the issuer to bear the cost of these services, HHS has determined that this obligation will not impose any net expense on issuers because its cost will be less than or equal to the cost savings resulting from the services. 78 Fed. Reg. 39877. [9]

In addition to these exemptions for religious organizations, ACA exempts a great [134 S.Ct. 2764] many employers from most of its coverage requirements. Employers providing " grandfathered health plans" --those that existed prior to March 23, 2010, and that have not made specified changes after that date--need not comply with many of the Act's requirements, including the contraceptive mandate. 42 U.S.C. § § 18011(a), (e). And employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to provide health insurance at all. 26 U.S.C. § 4980H(c)(2).

All told, the contraceptive mandate " presently does not apply to tens of millions of people." 723 F.3d 1114, 1143 (CA10 2013). This is attributable, in large part, to grandfathered health plans: Over one-third of the 149 million nonelderly people in America with employer-sponsored health plans were enrolled in grandfathered plans in 2013. Brief for HHS in No. 13-354, at 53; Kaiser Family Foundation & Health Research & Educational Trust, Employer Health Benefits, 2013 Annual Survey 43, 221. [10] The count for employees working for firms that do not have to provide insurance at all because they employ fewer than 50 employees is 34 million workers. See The Whitehouse, Health Reform for Small Businesses: The Affordable Care Act Increases Choice and Saving Money for Small Businesses 1. [11]

II

A

Norman and Elizabeth Hahn and their three sons are devout members of the Mennonite Church, a Christian denomination. The Mennonite Church opposes abortion and believes that " [t]he fetus in its earliest stages . . . shares humanity with those who conceived it." [12]

Fifty years ago, Norman Hahn started a wood-working business in his garage, and since then, this company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, has grown and now has 950 employees. Conestoga is organized under Pennsylvania law as a for-profit corporation. The Hahns exercise sole ownership of the closely held business; they control its board of directors and hold all of its voting shares. One of the Hahn sons serves as the president and CEO.

The Hahns believe that they are required to run their business " in accordance with their religious beliefs and moral principles." 917 F.Supp.2d 394, 402 (ED Pa. 2013). To that end, the company's mission, as they see it, is to " operate in a professional environment founded upon the highest ethical, moral, and Christian principles." Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted). The company's " Vision and Values Statements" affirms that Conestoga endeavors to " ensur[e] a reasonable profit in [a] manner that reflects [the Hahns'] Christian heritage." App. in No. 13-356, p. 94 (complaint).

As explained in Conestoga's board-adopted " Statement on the Sanctity of Human Life," the Hahns believe that " human life begins at conception." 724 F.3d 377, 382, and n. 5 [134 S.Ct. 2765] (CA3 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). It is therefore " against [their] moral conviction to be involved in the termination of human life" after conception, which they believe is a " sin against God to which they are held accountable." Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted). The Hahns have accordingly excluded from the group-health-insurance plan they offer to their employees certain contraceptive methods that they consider to be abortifacients. Id., at 382.

The Hahns and Conestoga sued HHS and other federal officials and agencies under RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, seeking to enjoin application of ACA's contraceptive mandate insofar as it requires them to provide health-insurance coverage for four FDA-approved contraceptives that may operate after the fertilization of an egg. [13] These include two forms of emergency contraception commonly called " morning after" pills and two types of intrauterine devices. [14]

In opposing the requirement to provide coverage for the contraceptives to which they object, the Hahns argued that " it is immoral and sinful for [them] to intentionally participate in, pay for, facilitate, or otherwise support these drugs." Ibid . The District Court denied a preliminary injunction, see 917 F.Supp. 2d, at 419, and the Third Circuit affirmed in a divided opinion, holding that " for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise" within the meaning of RFRA or the First Amendment. 724 F.3d, at 381. The Third Circuit also rejected the claims brought by the Hahns themselves because it concluded that the HHS " [m]andate does not impose any requirements on the Hahns" in their personal capacity. Id., at 389.

B

David and Barbara Green and their three children are Christians who own and operate two family businesses. Forty-five years ago, David Green started an arts-and-crafts store that has grown into a nationwide chain called Hobby Lobby. There are now 500 Hobby Lobby stores, and the company has more than 13,000 employees. 723 F.3d, at 1122. Hobby Lobby is organized as a for-profit corporation under Oklahoma law.

One of David's sons started an affiliated business, Mardel, which operates 35 Christian bookstores and employs close to 400 people. Ibid . Mardel is also organized as a for-profit corporation under Oklahoma law.

Though these two businesses have expanded over the years, they remain closely held, and David, Barbara, and their children retain exclusive control of both companies. Ibid . David serves as the CEO of Hobby Lobby, and his three children serve as the president, vice president, and vice CEO. See Brief for Respondents in No. 13-354, p. 8. [15]

[134 S.Ct. 2766] Hobby Lobby's statement of purpose commits the Greens to " [h]onoring the Lord in all [they] do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles." App. in No. 13-354, pp. 134-135 (complaint). Each family member has signed a pledge to run the businesses in accordance with the family's religious beliefs and to use the family assets to support Christian ministries. 723 F.3d, at 1122. In accordance with those commitments, Hobby Lobby and Mardel stores close on Sundays, even though the Greens calculate that they lose millions in sales annually by doing so. Id., at 1122; App. in No. 13-354, at 136-137. The businesses refuse to engage in profitable transactions that facilitate or promote alcohol use; they contribute profits to Christian missionaries and ministries; and they buy hundreds of full-page newspaper ads inviting people to " know Jesus as Lord and Savior." Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted).

Like the Hahns, the Greens believe that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point. 723 F.3d, at 1122. They specifically object to the same four contraceptive methods as the Hahns and, like the Hahns, they have no objection to the other 16 FDA-approved methods of birth control. Id., at 1125. Although their group-health-insurance plan predates the enactment of ACA, it is not a grandfathered plan because Hobby Lobby elected not to retain grandfathered status before the contraceptive mandate was proposed. Id., at 1124.

The Greens, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel sued HHS and other federal agencies and officials to challenge the contraceptive mandate under RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause. [16] The District Court denied a preliminary injunction, see 870 F.Supp.2d 1278 (WD Okla. 2012), and the plaintiffs appealed, moving for initial en banc consideration. The Tenth Circuit granted that motion and reversed in a divided opinion. Contrary to the conclusion of the Third Circuit, the Tenth Circuit held that the Greens' two for-profit businesses are " persons" within the meaning of RFRA and therefore may bring suit under that law.

The court then held that the corporations had established a likelihood of success on their RFRA claim. 723 F.3d, at 1140-1147. The court concluded that the contraceptive mandate substantially burdened the exercise of religion by requiring the companies to choose between " compromis[ing] their religious beliefs" and paying a heavy fee--either " close to $475 million more in taxes every year" if they simply refused to provide coverage for the contraceptives at issue, or " roughly $26 million" annually if they " drop[ped] health-insurance benefits for all employees." Id., at 1141.

The court next held that HHS had failed to demonstrate a compelling interest in enforcing the mandate against the Greens' businesses and, in the alternative, that HHS had failed to prove that enforcement of the mandate was the " least restrictive means" of furthering the Government's asserted interests. Id., at 1143-1144 (emphasis deleted; internal quotation marks omitted). After concluding that the companies had " demonstrated irreparable harm," the court reversed and remanded for the District Court to consider the remaining factors of the preliminary-injunction test. Id., at 1147. [17]

[134 S.Ct. 2767] We granted certiorari. 571 U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 678, ...


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