WASHINGTON, DC (CNN) - The Supreme Court ruled Monday that companies with religious objections to contraception can refuse to pay for them.
The high court reached the 5-4 decision based on the healthcare showdown case between the White House and arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion.
The ruling was that it only applied to corporations that were run by a smal group of people, with no "essential difference" between the corporation and its owners, according to the Associated Press. Hobby Lobby challenged the Affordable Care Act mandate that all businesses must provide contraception coverage for their employees.
Protesters stood outside the Supreme Court, calling on justices to defend religious freedom against what they see as government intrusion.
“Our basic point is the government can't put a corporation in the position of choosing between its faith and following the law,” Hobby Lobby attorney Kyle Duncan said last week.
Hobby Lobby wants an exemption from the Obamacare mandate to provide certain forms of contraception, like Plan B, known as the "morning after" pill, which the company's owners view as tantamount to abortion.
Last year, the Obama administration allowed exemptions for churches and allowed some religiously affiliated groups like church-run hospitals and charities to have a third-party provide coverage.
But Hobby Lobby is a private company. Legal experts say if it gets an exemption, the ruling could have widespread implications just like another landmark decision - 2010's Citizens United.
“Well, this case says basically says if corporations are like people with free speech rights, do they also have free exercise rights? Do they have rights to these religious beliefs like individuals do?” said Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University.
If the court says they do, it could make things very difficult for the government.
“The ripple effect of this could be significant, far beyond the ACA; the government would be in a position of having to accommodate religious beliefs across the board. This wouldn't just stop at healthcare,” Turley said.
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