In the course of the past week, the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to review a challenge to Obamacare by the Virginia-based Liberty University, but has agreed to hear a pair of cases that challenge the federal government’s authority to force business owners to provide contraceptives — including those that can cause abortion — to their employees.
Fox News is reporting on the Court’s decision not to hear a case brought by Liberty University which not only challenged the contraception mandate, but also the requirement that employers must provide health care coverage or face a fine.
More than a year ago, the high court ordered the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to reconsider the case after it rejected the University’s claim that the law violates the school’s religious freedom.
Their refusal to reconsider the case means that the Circuit Court’s ruling will remain in place.
At the same time, the Justices agreed to hear a pair of cases that are challenging the federal government’s authority to force business owners who are morally opposed to abortion and contraception to provide contraceptives – some of which are abortifacients – to their employees. At issue will be whether or not corporations enjoy the same First Amendment rights as individuals.
The most well-known case is that of the Green family who own Hobby Lobby and Mardel. The other case involves the pro-life Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties. Both companies are fighting the law which will impose millions of dollars in fines upon them if they refuse to make insurance available to their employees for contraceptives.
According to NewsOK, the Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby is arguing that a 1993 law, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, protects the company from the mandate. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, which prompted the U.S. Justice Department to ask the Supreme Court to review the decision.
“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. “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.”
Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, said, “My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case. This 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.”
Meanwhile, the White House is defending the mandate.
“We believe this requirement is lawful and essential to women’s health and are confident the Supreme Court will agree,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “As a general matter, our policy is designed to ensure that health care decisions are made between a woman and her doctor. The President believes that no one, including the government or for-profit corporations, should be able to dictate those decisions to women.”
Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, disagrees.
Calling the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Hobby Lobby case “the most important religious liberty question in recent years,” Moore told NewsOK that what’s at stake in this case “is whether or not the Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion.”
He added: “We cannot accept the theology lesson that the government has sought to teach us, that religion is merely a matter of what happens during the scheduled times of our services, and is left there in the foyer during the rest of the week. Our religious convictions aren’t reduced to mere opinions we hide in our heart and in our hymns. Our religious convictions inform the way we live.”
Arguments are expected to be heard in March with a decision coming sometime in June, 2014.
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