By Dave Andrusko
On March 25, at 10:00 am, the United States Supreme Court will hear two lawsuits which challenge the HHS mandate which compels employers to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections.
The announcement was made without flourish on Wednesday. The High Court merely released the schedule of oral arguments for the two-weeks beginning March 24.
But the consequences of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius could be immense.
The core argument raised is that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause.
There have been scores of legal challenges to the HHS mandate which are regulations adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services under a provision of ObamaCare–the “Affordable Care Act.”
In November, when the Court agreed to hear the two cases, David Green, Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO, said, “My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case.” He added, the “legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”
Hobby Lobby, a chain of more than 500 arts and crafts stores, employs more than 13,000 full-time workers.
“This is a major step for the Greens and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “The cases will decide ‘who gets to exercise religion — it’s really that simple,’ Duncan told POLITICO. ‘The idea that the protection of religious liberty is confined to only certain pursuits … from our perspective, that’s disturbing.’”
Courts of appeal split on the two lawsuits. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals circuit ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby while the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals held against Conestoga Wood Specialties, which is owned by Mennonites.