Do Corporations Have Religious Rights?

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March 25 (Bloomberg) -- A divided U.S. Supreme Court debated whether companies can assert religious rights, hearing arguments in an ideological clash over President Barack Obama’s health-care law and rules that promote contraceptive coverage. Greg Stohr has more on Bloomberg Television's "Bottom Line." (Source: Bloomberg)

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In washington, the u.s. supreme court heard a challenge to the part of obamacare that requires companies to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.

It focuses on two companies, hobby lobby and conestoga would.

They are both owned by religious conservatives.

What is the issue the court has to decide?

Mark, these companies want a religious exemption from that law.

It is a constitutional case and a statutory case.

The court focused most on the statutory argument.

There was a law passed in 1993 that provides for protecting religious freedoms.

The corporations can apply under the statutes.

The government says a --the corporations do not qualify and b -- the owners have not shown that their religious freedoms are burdened by these requirements.

And the employees need to be taken account of.

Compare this case to the big health care case two years ago at the court.

In many ways it seems very similar.

It is a big ideological argument.

The same lawyers.

You have don verrilli for the administration every -- administration.

You have the same guy who argued against the health care law arguing for the company.

The big difference is this is not a case that will take down the whole statute to waive the last case might have.

This is a fairly narrow point.

The administration says it is important, contraceptive coverage, but it is not threatening the entire affordable care act.

What are the companies arguing for and what would be the impact if they won?

The impact is something hotly debated in the courtroom.

The company wants to be able to claim religious exemptions from otherwise generally applicable laws, and the question is, what else could they object to?

Some of the more liberal justices, could they say we do not want to provide coverage for vaccinations or blood transfusions?

Could they try to obtain religious exemptions from other laws?

Child labor laws?

The slippery slope argument is very much in place.

What impact might this have on publicly traded companies?

Probably not any impact.

There is the possibility of not knowing where this would lead.

All of the challenges to the contraceptive requirements are family owned companies.

The lawyer for the companies today said, i don't even know how -- the justices on the more liberal side of the court are clearly worried about the implications if the court says the companies can claim religious rights.

Not too far from where you're at in an appeals court there was another challenge to a case that could have even bigger implications.

Tell us about that.

Writes, and this is a case that -- right, and this is a case that really affects the core of the law.

And that is subsidies that the government provides on exchanges . whether someone who buys a subsidy on a federal exchange qualifies for those subsidies or only the state exchanges.

Since most of the states have not said up there on exchanges, we're talking two thirds, three quarters of the states where low income people would not get subsidies for buying open sure is.

If the court were to agree with that argument, it could have a really big impact on enrollment under obamacare.

Greg, just to sum up -- no sense of where this might go at this point, right?

It is hard to call.

Justice kennedy asked questions opposed sides in the case.

The court did not look at this in terms of the sleeping rolling.

Who wins and who loses, not really clear right now.

Reg stohr, thank u so much.

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.

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