Supreme Court to Hear Hobby Lobby Contraception Mandate Case

By:  Bob Adelmann
03/24/2014
       
Supreme Court to Hear Hobby Lobby Contraception Mandate Case

On Tuesday the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, a case that is likely to have significant ramifications for freedom of religion under the First Amendment.

David and Barbara Green, the owners of Hobby Lobby, a nationwide chain of more than 500 arts and crafts stores employing more than 13,000 people, run their business according to their Christian faith. Accordingly, among other things, they close those stores on Sundays. When the ObamaCare mandate required health plans to provide contraceptives (such as the morning-after pill and other devices that may cause early abortions), the Greens objected, according to their faith. They said:

The Green family’s religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices.

They filed suit and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted them a preliminary injunction, issuing a sweeping decision in favor of the Greens. The court held that for-profit businesses, just as individuals, can engage in religious exercises, and therefore the ObamaCare mandate violates their rights under the First Amendment.

To add weight to its argument and its decision, The Tenth Circuit Court also said that the mandate violates an act passed nearly unanimously by the Congress and signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. That law requires “strict scrutiny” to be used when determining whether the First Amendment has been violated. It also provides two exceptions, allowing abrogation of that amendment only in the face of the “furtherance of a compelling government interest” and only when that abrogation is the “least restrictive way” in which to obtain that interest. RFRA defines “religious exercise” broadly as “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.”

The only problem is that neither the First Amendment nor the RFRA defined exactly who may exercise those religious beliefs, and the Supreme Court, until now, has not directly addressed the issue as to whether for-profit corporations may do so.

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