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Supreme Court takes up birth control cases

Posted on December 3rd, 2013.

Lawyers for Hobby Lobby asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, November 25, 2013 to take up the company’s lawsuit against the federal health care law’s requirement that coverage include access to the morning-after pill.

Lawyers for the Oklahoma City-based craft store chain and its sister company, Mardel Christian bookstore, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case because of what they say are conflicting decisions by other courts regarding religious freedom.

“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 grant the petition,” lawyers wrote in the 51-page filing.

The Green family, which owns the two companies, believes life begins at conception, and lawyers for the Greens say following the provisions of the new federal health care law would either violate their religious beliefs or cost them millions of dollars in fines.

The company’s insurance plans do offer 16 other forms of birth control mentioned in the federal health care act. The Greens object to birth control methods that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, such as an intrauterine device or forms of emergency contraception.

The Supreme Court has agreed to settle a question that has split the federal courts and the nation’s political culture: Do corporations have religious liberty, and, if they do, does required coverage of birth control under the Affordable Care Act violate it?  The Court said it would take up a case brought by the Oklahoma City-based craft store chain Hobby Lobby, in which the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals said contraceptive coverage was a violation of religious liberty, regardless of the fact that Hobby Lobby is a corporation and not an individual. At the same time, the Court will hear a case brought by the Mennonite cabinet maker Conestoga Wood Specialties, in which the Third Circuit said that corporations don’t have religious liberty.

The two cases chosen by the Court show starkly different conclusions on whether corporations have religious liberty. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals claimed in its Hobby Lobby decision that “such corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes of the statute.” The Third Circuit was equally definitive in the other direction: “For-profit secular corporations cannot exercise in religious exercise.”

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