It's no accident that one of the most pivotal religious liberty cases in our nation's history is being heard at the Supreme Court today - the Feast of the Annunciation - and the faithful are being asked to keep this pivotal moment in U.S. history in their prayers today.
According to the Becket Fund, a non-profit legal defense institute that is representing Hobby Lobby owners David and Barbara Green, oral arguments will be heard today in the U.S. Supreme Court to determine if the government can force them to provide insurance that covers abortifacient drugs which are against their religious beliefs.
Another case also being argued before the high court is Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Mennonite owned manufacturer of kitchen cabinets which was founded by Norman Hahn, who is also protesting the mandate.
Hobby Lobby, which began in the Green's garage in Oklahoma City in 1972, has grown to more than 550 stores in 41 states. Devout Christians, the couple runs their business in accordance with their faith and believes that “it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.” Therefore they seek to honor God by “operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”
For instance, stores close at 8:00 p.m. daily and are closed on Sundays to allow their 13,000 employees to spend time with their families.
While the Greens are generous with their employee health plans, and have no problem providing insurance coverage for contraceptives, they are vehemently against being forced to pay for insurance covering abortifacient drugs such as Plan B and ella. However, if they refuse to do so under the controversial birth control mandate stipulated in ObamaCare, they will be fined $100 a day for each employee - a fine that will essentially put this successful and thriving company out of business.
The family filed suit in September, 2012 to defend their right to religious freedom under the Constitution and federal law. Their suit was upheld by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in June, 2013, noting that the Greens "allow their faith to guide business decisions" and that the mandate substantially burdened their faith under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). A preliminary injunction was granted to prevent the federal government from enforcing the mandate against the Greens and their family business.
In October, 2013, the government asked the Supreme Court to review the case and a month later, the nation's highest court agreed to take the case. Oral arguments will be heard today and a decision handed down before the end of the current term, which concludes in June, 2014.
Even though court watchers say a decision for or against Hobby Lobby will not be enough to shut down the Affordable Care Act, it will certainly have a powerful impact on the dozens of lawsuits which are currently pending in the court system.
"If the government prevails and the Supreme Court holds that RFRA does not cover for-profit entities or their owners or managers, the decision would immediately end all religious-liberty-based challenges to the contraception mandate by for-profit businesses," writes the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project. "Such a ruling would not, however, have any impact on the pending challenges to the contraception mandate by religious nonprofit organizations."
However, if the court rules that RFRA applies to for-profit business but that it does not substantially burden businesses' religious exercise, it could make it much more difficult for religious nonprofits to show that the mandate substantially burdens them.
Should the Justices rule in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, "it would likely open the door for businesses to invoke RFRA in a wide range of challenges to federal statutes and regulations," Pew writes.
"For instance, one bill now pending in Congress that would almost certainly invite such challenges is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would include sexual orientation among the protected characteristics in workplace discrimination cases. A decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga might give for-profit employers a strong foundation to raise religious objections to hiring gays and lesbians or to providing the same-sex spouses of employees with the same benefits extended to opposite-sex spouses."
Meanwhile, the faithful are rallying behind Hobby Lobby. The Family Research Council has set aside Saturday, March 29, as "Hobby Lobby Day" and is inviting Americans to show their support for the company by visiting their local store or hobbylobby.com and asking them to bring a thank you note to the family.
Visitors to the store are also encouraged to post photos and comments about their visit at #hobbylobbyday on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Let us all join in imploring Our Lady to intercede for the lawyers who will be arguing the case for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties today, and for the Justices who will be rendering their decision throughout the coming months. May hearts be moved to protect the religious freedom that has made this nation great!
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