By Dave Andrusko
As NRL News Today reported last month, on March 25 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 core arguments raised in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius are that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause.
Today Hobby Lobby, the family-owned chain of more than 500 arts and crafts stores founded by David and Barbara Green, asked the High Court to protect them from being forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or be forced to pay severe fines. The written brief calls the federal mandate to provide objectionable drugs and devices “one of the most straightforward violations … this Court is likely to see” of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act preserving the free exercise of faith.
Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby “will determine whether the government has the power to force family business owners to act against their faith based solely on their companies’ form of organization,” said the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which is counsel for Hobby Lobby.
Hobby Lobby’s brief calls on two centuries of high court rulings to counter the government’s reasoning that the Greens’ rights as individuals cannot be exercised through their family-owned corporation. The brief insists that this freedom does not “turn on [the Company’s] tax status,” and further states that the Administration cannot “divide and conquer” the Greens’ religious liberties from those of Hobby Lobby to make those rights “simply vanish.”
“Hobby Lobby’s latest brief brings into even sharper focus the issue at the heart of this landmark case: No one should be forced to give up their constitutionally protected civil rights just to go into business,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby.
“The filing demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the government’s efforts to strip this family business of its religious rights represent a gross violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the Tenth Circuit’s strong affirmation of the Greens’ rights to live out their deeply held beliefs in every aspect of their business,” he said.
“The government has taken the extreme position that Americans forfeit their constitutional rights when they open a family business,” added Duncan. “That rule would give the government broad powers to restrict religious freedom. People of all faiths should be concerned.”
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