Beliefs Culture Politics

Survey: Majorities support requiring companies to abide by controversial contraception …

A federal appeals court on Wednesday (Nov. 28) temporarily blocked the enforcement of the Obama administration's contraception mandate while a Catholic business owner appeals a lower court's ruling that tossed out his suit.

(RNS) More than six in 10 Americans say publicly held corporations should be required to provide employees with health insurance plans that include no-cost contraception coverage, with smaller majorities saying the same for privately held corporations and small business.

RNS photo courtesy Shutterstock (;_group=&lang=en&search_source=search_form#id=48504880).  *Note: This image is not available to download

More than four in 10 Americans support the Obama administration’s controversial contraception mandate, which requires nonprofits and businesses to provide birth control even if they have religious objections.

The poll from Public Religion Research Institute comes as the Supreme Court prepares to issue its decision in a challenge to the contraception mandate filed by the evangelical owners of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain and a Mennonite-owned wood cabinetry business.

Churches and houses of worship are exempt from the mandate, but nearly 100 nonprofits, colleges and universities and businesses run by people with religious objections to various forms of contraception have filed lawsuits over the mandate.

The poll found majority support for requiring publicly held corporations (61 percent) and privately owned corporations such as Hobby Lobby (57 percent) to provide contraception coverage at no cost to their employees. In addition, majorities of Americans said religiously affiliated hospitals (56 percent) and religiously affiliated colleges (52 percent) should be covered by the mandate.

The poll found less support (51 percent) for applying the mandate to privately owned small businesses; 53 percent oppose applying the mandate to all institutions, including churches and houses of worship, while 42 percent said it should apply to them.

A 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 48 percent supported a religious exemption to the mandate, while 44 percent said businesses should be required to cover contraceptives like other employers. The PRRI poll asked a bit differently, asking whether institutions and businesses should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost. Pew asked whether those groups should be extended an exemption.

PRRI’s poll also found that a majority (54 percent) of Americans believe that the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America, up from 39 percent two years ago. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats (80 percent vs. 40 percent) to say that religious liberty is being threatened.

White evangelicals especially believe religious liberty is being threatened in the United States today, at 83 percent, compared to 55 percent of Catholics and 53 percent of white mainline Protestants.

While more than 50 percent of Catholics believe that public and private businesses should be required to provide employees contraceptive coverage, less than half of white evangelicals support the mandate.

In other findings, the poll found that even religiously unaffiliated Americans (58 percent) support public officials opening a meeting with prayer. Nearly 80 percent of Americans support allowing public officials to open meetings. The Supreme Court held last month that public officials could hold sectarian prayers.


About the author

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.


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  • 100% of the people who claim their religious liberties are being attacked by the mandate know 0% of what those liberties actually are.

    Corporate religious belief is the most ridiculous concept to come down the conservative wingnutsphere. The idea that one’s religious belief entitles them to withhold compensation to employees is very old school religion. Harking back to the concept when you had labor performed by human beings you owned.

    “Get the Government out of my life – BUT STICK IT IN EVERYBODY ELSES!”

    Hobby Lobby:
    “Why not just arrest all sinners and throw away the key?”

    My fellow Americans, take notes.
    You have met the enemy. It is RELIGION.

  • Atheist Max –

    You keep telling us that Religion is the enemy. That is a very hurtful statement for all the religious being Christians, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, and other faith traditions, who are working at all points of the globe, teaching, feeding and healing those who are most in need. Do you want all the missionaries to come home and stop their work? What is your plan? Are you ready to fill in for all these good people doing beautiful acts of love?

    And why are you on this site every day? You don’t like religion, right? I am sure there are many atheist sites you can post on… maybe not too many people reading them… but that’s ok. I guess you realize that without religion, without God, you couldn’t be an atheist.

    Atheist Max, sorry to say this, but you are very boring.

  • Good points Brother.
    It strikes me that Atheist Max is God obsessed–even if that obsession seems filled with venom and hatred. According to a Jesuit poet I read a while back Max is actually running furiously from “The Hound of Heaven” (God) and must keep attacking to avoid being caught in God’s loving embrace.
    He would really be in trouble if he read–with an open mind,– a book by a man who used to be considered the world’s leading atheist: Antony Flew: “There Is A God!”—
    subtitled:” How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind.”

  • I appreciate anyone’s willingness to engage in conversation with one’s opposition. If more of us had Max’s courage, perhaps there would be less radicalism in America today. Jesus did not restrict his ministry to those he liked, but he also engaged Pharisees, scribes, and others with whom he strongly disagreed–about religion.

    Max is making his position clear. We in the Church and in other religious institutions need to hear that position, because Max is not alone. Large numbers of Americans are following Western Europe into post-Christendom. What is there that the Church (etc.) is doing that drives people away? Do we want to stop doing these things? (We may want to keep doing them, even in the face of the responses we see.) Do we want to adjust our message (not our core principles, but our message) to make it more acceptable? Paul did this on Mars Hill, to great success. Or do we want to insist on the adiaphora of ages past?

    I cannot speak for other faith traditions, and I probably can’t speak for all who call themselves Christian, but let me take a stab at it anyway. Max needs to hear that Christians believe it is possible to start a new life at any time, knowing that we are loved by the very one that created all the universes that ever were, are, or will be. We believe it is possible to move forward without the guilt of the past, forward to do a little more good today than we did yesterday, and a little more good the day after tomorrow than we do tomorrow. We don’t believe we can be perfect in this life, but we can be better than we have been, and we can work together to make the systems in which we interact do better for everyone. Everything else (creationism, sexual mores, hierarchical structures, misogyny, etc.) is meant to support these core principles. But it is only the message, not the core. Can we make this core attractive to Max (and the millions like him) in today’s world? Do we even want to offer this core in a way that they might find it of value?

    So Max, stick with us, even at our worst. We need you. I hope you find that you need us in some way, too.

  • @Deacon B,

    “Do you want all the missionaries to come home and stop their work?”

    ABSOLUTELY. I See I have not wasted my time here after all!

    Beautiful things done by religion? Really?
    like what?

    State Legalized Murder of Doctors – South Dakota

    Mandatory Trans-vaginal probes – Virginia Legislature

    Preaching the Bible in public schools – funded by Hobby Lobby

    Prayer at Government meetings
    Blocking people from family planning – Texas, 5 other states.

    Obstruction of prescriptions – Illinois, Washington

    Discrimination as religious choice -Arizona (SB-1062)

    Anti-Gay laws – Texas
 & elsewhere

    Anti-women’s rights laws – Texas, Louisina, Virginia

    Biased Counseling laws – South Dakota

    Creationism to replace Science Education: 12 States
    “Intelligent Design” to replace Scientific theories

    Instead of all that how about we help the Atheist Charities like
    Doctors Without Borders which has 22,000 doctors giving freely of their time around the world and NONE OF THEM BRIBE PEOPLE WITH BIBLES!
    They don’t waste any time with foolish chapels or priests or deacons.

    Religion is a loveless poison which is wrecking the world.

  • @Glyndon Morris,

    I appreciate your acknowledgement but All I am ASKING is that the wall of separation between church and state be CHERISHED by Christians instead of wrecked and disfigured by Christians and the Evangelical juggernaut.

    Christians need to really understand that this is the line they have been crossing lately.

    Believe in Jesus all you want. I DON”T CARE.
    I argue that religion is completely immoral – but it is a FREE COUNTRY. You want it? Be my guest!

    Pray in public, pray frequently, pray (TO YOURSELVES) in schools and at baseball games and pray on public property ALL YOU WANT! I DONT CARE.

    But people like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Pat Robertson, etc..
    are fighting to destroy the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

    As much as I would like to disregard the news at RNS
    every day there are new reports of Government getting involved in religion.
    Our current Supreme Court is exactly the kind of problem I am talking about.

    Yes. I hate religion. But I also hate eating liver and must be free to not eat it.

    I have nothing against your religion as long as you would stop trying to force it on me, force it no my kids and force it on my daughters and my wife! This is insane.

  • @Deacon John M. Bresnahan,

    I’m obsessed with religion in the same way an Oncologist is obsessed with cancer.

    “The master shall cut him to pieces” – Jesus (Luke 12)

    See the latest stories on the stoning death in Pakistan of a pregnant woman?
    Religion was the reason.

    I see sickness and immorality in religion and an unrelenting
    surrender to obedience. Nothing has caused more misery that the claims in religion – nothing has destroyed more lives than religion.

    Yes. I hate it as I hate cancer.

  • @Glyndon,

    Yes, I need you.
    I need you to be a good American citizen: rational, reflective and questioning of authorities which make claims over you and your family.

    Doubt those who claim you must think like them.
    Consider the claims religion makes and ask where they came from. Does ‘Faith’ mean do as you are told? Or does it mean do what is right?

    I do not object to believers or their rights to believe.
    Yes, I find the claims hollow and ridiculous.
    But it is imperative that we not lose the pressing matter at hand.

    We must protect the freedom or religion before those who make big Evangelical claims put us where we have no choices anymore.

  • The word “personal” should be placed in front of “religious objections” in the very first sentence of this story. The owners of Hobby Lobby or any other business may own their businesses, but they do not own their employees. Religion is personal, it is not business. Health care is part of employment remuneration, it is not religion.

    The first clause of the First Amendment to our Constitution demands the protection of everyone, religious and otherwise, against the infliction of any person’s religious beliefs.

    If churches are protected against intrusion by the government, the other side of that coin is that the government is protected against intrusion by any church. The consequence of that two-sided protection is that every citizen of this nation is protected against the infliction of the beliefs or morals of religious people, and the beliefs or morals of every religious person are protected against intrusion by those who disagree–as long as those religious beliefs or morals do not invade another’s rights or violate our laws..

  • Hobby Lobby definitely needs to remove all religious activity, including political lobbying, from its business activities.

    Hobby Lobby needs to realize it is a secular business, not a religion. It has been through its secular business that its owners became so wealthy. They are not a church.

    Hobby Lobby owners need to mind their real business and keep their religion to themselves, the families, and their church communities.

    Hobby Lobby owners need to respect the laws of this land and instantly stop, altogether, their activities of trying to shove their religious beliefs and morals onto anyone else, employees or customers.

    It is obvious that the owners of Hobby Lobby are not confident about their religious beliefs, not at home, not in their churches, or they wouldn’t have to try to evangelize all their employees and all their customers through their secular business.

    Big shame on Hobby Lobby owners! Customers should take a stand and stop doing any business with Hobby Lobby until and if Hobby Lobby ceases its horrible violation of the rights of others.

    No one is telling Hobby Lobby owners what to believe, and health care is a part of employment remuneration.

    Hobby Lobby owners have already been acting so outrageously against our Constitution, our laws, and the rights of others, including their employees, that everyone should take their business elsewhere.

    Hobby Lobby owners can already live on the wealth they have ripped so religiously from the pockets of their customers, so force them to close shop!

  • Too weird!

    Why would the headline read more than 4 in 10 Americans Support the Contraception Mandate?

    Why wouldn’t it read, instead, More than 5 in 10 Americans Oppose the Contraception Mandate?

    If a pitcher takes six pitches to strike out a player, why would a sports reporter summarize the at-bat with, Pitcher throws three balls against Player X, rather than Pitcher strikes out Player X?

    I don’t mean to prove an agenda in such oddly crafted headlining. But to suggest such a headline agenda, one need only read the existing headline.

  • Given that opposition to the mandate has been framed as a “religious liberty” issue and that more than 8 in 10 Americans are religious, one would expect the number to be closer to 2 in 10.

    More than 4 in 10 is headline-worthy because “nearly half” indicates much more support than the Hobby Lobby Lobby would have us believe.

  • Its also a more positive note than saying “5 out of 10 people are ignorant of religious liberties and are being used as tools for partisan politics”.