Kirsten Andersen

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Hobby Lobby lawyers ask U.S. Supreme Court to rule on birth control mandate

Kirsten Andersen

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Lawyers for the Christian-owned craft store chain Hobby Lobby have joined the federal government in asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the HHS birth control mandate. That mandate, part of Obama’s health care reform law, forces employers to provide insurance coverage that includes coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs. 

Hobby Lobby sued HHS last summer arguing that to force the company owners, who are Christian, to pay for procedures and treatments that their faith teaches them is immoral is a violation of their 1st amendment right to the free exercise of religion.  Hobby Lobby’s owners believe that life begins at conception, and oppose forms of contraception that can interfere with the implantation of an already fertilized egg, such as the IUD and the ‘morning after pill.’

The company was granted a temporary injunction after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Hobby Lobby had “established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm.”  The injunction has allowed them to avoid fines of up to $1.3 million a day for refusing to comply with the Obama Administration’s mandate while the lawsuit works its way through the courts.    

On September 20, the Administration asked the Supreme Court to hear the case in hopes that they will overturn the injunction and order Hobby Lobby to comply with the HHS mandate.  On Monday, Hobby Lobby’s lawyers effectively told the government to ‘bring it on,’ in a 51-page court filing that said that given the importance of the issue and how much is at stake, the Supreme Court should absolutely have the final say in the case.

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“As the federal government embarks on an unprecedented foray into health care replete with multiple overlapping mandates, few issues are more important than the extent to which the government must recognize and accommodate the religious exercise of those it regulates … Thus, Respondents agree with the government that this Court should [hear this case],” lawyers wrote in the 51-page filing.

Even though there is a possibility the high court could reverse the previous ruling from the 10th circuit which was in Hobby Lobby’s favor, the company says that given contradictory rulings from other lower courts in similar cases moving through the system, it’s time for the highest court in the land to step in. 

"The issues presented in the government's petition are indeed important, and the circuits are now hopelessly divided on critical questions of standing and religious liberty," the petition says.  “Respondents respectfully suggest that the considered decision of the en banc Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals is correct. Nonetheless, respondents agree with the government that, in light of the importance of the issues and the division in the circuits, plenary review by this Court is warranted."

Dozens of similar lawsuits have also been filed against HHS, with varying results.  While the tenth circuit has consistently favored the plaintiffs in the HHS mandate cases, the third circuit has dismissed several cases against the government, arguing that companies are not people and therefore have no right to religious freedom. 

This is the same argument the government has made in its filing asking the Supreme Court to intervene.

Said Kyle Duncan, lead counsel for the Becket Fund, which is representing Hobby Lobby in their case, “Right now, some courts recognize the rights of business owners like the Green family, and others do not. Religious freedom is too important to be left to chance. The Supreme Court should take this case and protect religious freedom for the Green family and Hobby Lobby.”

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