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Hobby Lobby wants U.S. SC to review case over contraceptive mandate

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Oct 24, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. says it wants the U.S. Supreme Court to take up its case against the federal government over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate.

In its brief filed with the court Monday, the arts and crafts retailer took the unusual step of agreeing with the government's filing of a petition for a writ of certiorari, or review, last month.

"Hobby Lobby's case raises important questions about who can enjoy religious freedom," Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby, said in a statement.

"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."

In its Sept. 19 petition, the Obama administration points to the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act states that the government "shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.

The administration is asking the Supreme Court to decide that for-profit corporations cannot deny their employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation's owners.

In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit sided with Hobby Lobby.

The company sued the federal government in September 2012, arguing that the contraceptive mandate would force "religiously-motivated business owners," such as themselves, to "violate their faith under threat of millions of dollars in fines."

The Tenth Circuit found, in its June 27 opinion, that corporations have free exercise rights and that the requirement in President Barack Obama's health care law that employers provide their workers with birth control coverage "substantially burdens" those rights without a compelling governmental interest.

The Supreme Court will consider the government's petition and Hobby Lobby's response next month.

If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the court's term in June.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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