Supreme Court sets date for Hobby Lobby hearing
The U.S. Supreme Court has released the oral argument calendar for late March and early April. Included are high-profile religious cases, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties. The arguments will be heard Tuesday, March 25.
By Bob Allen
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 8 that it will hear oral arguments in March in a legal challenge to mandated coverage of contraceptives under Obamacare brought by Hobby Lobby, whose Southern Baptist owners oppose some forms of birth control for religious reasons.
Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores is on the court’s docket for Tuesday, March 25, according to a schedule for a two-week sitting that begins March 24. The one-hour argument will be consolidated with Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, another case testing whether the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employee health plans include birth control and other pregnancy-related services violates the religious rights of corporations and their owners.
At issue is whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which provides that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” without certain safeguards, applies only to individuals or also to corporations.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations are entitled to First Amendment protection of their freedom of speech, but lower courts are divided if that extends to religious freedom as well.
Hobby Lobby founder David Green and members of his family, affiliated with Council Road Baptist Church in Bethany, Okla., say they do not oppose birth control, but they believe certain forms and methods included in the mandate can cause abortion, violating their sincerely held religious belief that human life is sacred from the moment of conception.
Health and Human Services rules provide a conscience objection for religious employers, including congregations and conventions that exist primarily for spiritual purposes. For-profit businesses like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a wholesale cabinet-making business owned by a practicing Mennonite family in Pennsylvania, are not covered by that rule.
The government argues that health care decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor and not by her bosses or corporate CEOs.
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