|RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer|
Faith-affiliated charities, hospitals and universities have filed dozens of lawsuits against the mandate, which requires employers to provide insurance that covers contraception for free. However, many for-profit business owners are also suing, claiming a violation of their religious beliefs.
The religious lawsuits have largely stalled, as the
"The circuits have split. You're getting different, conflicting interpretations of law, so the line of cases will have to go to the
Last year, the
Under the requirement, most employers, including faith-affiliated hospitals and nonprofits, have to provide health insurance that includes artificial contraception, including sterilization, as a free preventive service. The goal, in part, is to help women space pregnancies as a way to promote health.
Religious groups who employ and serve people of their own faith _ such as churches _ are exempt. But other religiously affiliated groups, such as
Roman Catholic bishops, evangelicals and some religious leaders who have generally been supportive of Obama's policies have lobbied fiercely for a broader exemption.
Obama promised to change the birth control requirement so insurance companies and not faith-affiliated employers would pay for the coverage, but religious leaders said more changes were needed to make the plan work.
However, government attorneys responding to a lawsuit said an announcement was expected by the end of March. In the suit filed by the evangelical
At the center of the cases is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the 1993 law that bars the government from imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion for anything other than a compelling government interest pursued in the least restrictive way. The question of how or whether these criteria apply when owners of for-profit businesses have a religious objection to a government policy hasn't been fully tested.
"It's more natural for people to say