Supreme Court to hear challenge to Obamacare mandate to provide free contraception coverage

A victory for religious liberty

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear another legal challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, this time to decide whether a corporation can refuse to pay to cover birth control drugs that violate the religious beliefs of the firm's owners, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The court will hear combined appeal of two cases, one by  Hobby Lobby, an evangelical-owned craft chain

Kathleen Sebelius

Kathleen Sebelius

which won in the Tenth Circuit, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Mennonite-owned woodworking company which lost in the Third Circuit. Look for oral arguments in March and a decision in June.

The requirement that all insurance policies provide free contraception coverage, as well as sterilization and abortion-producing drugs was not contained in the Affordable Care Act, but was unilaterally imposed by Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, over the strenuous conscientious objections of some religions. They argued that the requirement violates the religious freedom protections contained in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Hobby Lobby is represented by the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby said in reaction to the high court's decision to hear the appeal:

This is a major step for the Greens and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.

Here is information on the 84 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate. In addition to Hobby Lobby, the Becket fund also represents Little Sisters of the PoorGuidestoneWheaton CollegeEast Texas Baptist UniversityHouston Baptist UniversityColorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network,Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

Here is reaction from one John Kennedy, CEO of Autocam, one of the companies that has sued: .

Today, the US Supreme Court has granted review in both the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp challenges to the HHS Mandate and it will likely hold our case pending its decision.  Although we will not get a chance to argue our specific case before the Supreme Court, we are hopeful that the Court will decide in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp, thus supporting the religious liberty of business owners who oppose the HHS Mandate, including our family.

The HHS Mandate forces our family to choose between violating the teachings of our faith, canceling our benefits, or paying $16,000,000 in fines that would result in the closure of the company.  Because of our Catholic beliefs, we work tirelessly to treat our employees well and provide them with award-winning healthcare benefits.  If the mandate stands, we will be forced to make drastic and unwanted changes to our coverage that will place a tremendous burden on our employees and their families.

In 1993, Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act designed to protect religious freedom.  As individuals who own and operate a business, this law protects our ability to operate our business according to our conscience, a right which we ask the Court to recognize and uphold.  The decision to practice our faith should not be a decision that cripples Autocam, and ultimately, our family’s ability to make a living.  A ruling in favor of the protection of religious liberty would allow our family to be both true to ourselves and generous with our employee benefits.  Thus, we hope and pray that the Supreme Court of the United States will grant our request for relief of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.

Here's some more response from the Independent Women's Forum:

Hadley Heath, senior policy analyst and manager of healthcarelawsuits.org at the Independent Women's Forum, released the following statement:

"Women should not be used to justify this assault on individual liberty.  Women have been capable of obtaining birth control on their own long before this mandate and in fact numerous organizations and programs exist to help those who truly cannot afford these products.  Women who believe in freedom of association do not want to be told how to live, and do not need the force others to violate their beliefs to spare them to cost of a pack of birth control pills. Harmful and misguided, the mandate further illustrates how ObamaCare's one-size-fits-all system undermines American values."  [My emphasis.]

If you want to see how emotional this issue is, check out the explosion of comments following the Chicago Tribune story.

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