Hobby Lobby set to take Center Stage in Washington DC

It’s Showtime for Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby store | CREDIT: Wiki Commons
Hobby Lobby store | CREDIT: Wiki Commons

Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme court will decide the most highly anticipated ruling of this session, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. This case decided whether business owners can express their religious beliefs through company policies.

Hobby Lobby a store which is located all over the country has decided not to provide the “morning-after pill” to its employees even though its mandated under the Afforable Care Act (ObamaCare). According to Christianity 9 to 5’s Michael Zigarelli the founder of Hobby Lobby will not pay for pills that causes an abortion.

According to Newsweek, the Court could decide that Hobby Lobby is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act , a 1993 law signed by President Bill Clinton which says the government may not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” unless it has a “compelling” justification and has used “the least restrictive means” available. The contraceptive mandate The Supreme Court would then have to decide if they government is imposing a “burden” on the companies. It would also then have to decide whether the government has a compelling reason to impose that burden.

The main legal argument Hobby Lobby makes in their brief is this: Though Hobby Lobby is a corporation; corporations have a right to free exercise of religion as the relevant law “draws no distinction between natural or corporate persons.”  Hobby Lobby’s faith prohibits it from “facilitating abortion,” including providing health coverage that could be used by employees to purchase certain kinds of birth control.  The government is forcing Hobby Lobby to provide this coverage or face “draconian consequences,” something Hobby Lobby calls the “contraceptive mandate.”  This places an unconstitutional “substantial burden” on Hobby Lobby and the Greens and, though individual employees would ultimately make their own decisions about using the birth control in dispute, the potential of “facilitating” that eventuality is a burden on Hobby Lobby’s free exercise of religion.  The government has no “compelling interest” that would justify forcing Hobby Lobby to comply with the law, so Hobby Lobby should be given an accommodation.

The government’s response is Corporations do not have the right to the free exercise of religion, and the relevant law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, does not cover them. Further, the Greens’ free exercise of religion is not burdened by the ACA in any direct way; their connection to the behavior that violates their beliefs is attenuated and indirect.  Moreover, there is no “contraceptive mandate;” they are not forced to provide health insurance coverage because they went into business voluntarily, knowing laws govern business, and because they can opt not to offer insurance at all and pay a fine of $2,000 per employee instead.  The government has compelling interests in not exempting the Hobby Lobby from the ACA, especially in protecting “employees [who] have rights that can’t just be trumped.” The government also has a compelling interest in fostering uniform compliance with the ACA.

According to ABC News in Denver, the justices will be divided as usual, with Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito on one side, Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan on the other, with Justice Kennedy as the swing vote. According to Newsweek, if Hobby Lobby wins, this will lead to many questions including, Can any corporation claim a religious objection to covering contraception? What about a religious objection to vaccines? Or minimum-wage laws? Can only family-held corporations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga obtain religious exemptions from the law?

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