Supreme Court hears Hobby Lobby case, hints sympathy for plaintiffs
March 25, 2014
Several US Supreme Court justices expressed sympathy for plaintiffs challenging the federally mandated coverage of contraceptives, during oral arguments on March 25.
Based on the justices' questions, several leading journalists reported that the Court appeared likely to uphold the legal challenge mounted by the Hobby Lobby against the contraceptive mandate.
The Hobby Lobby is a private corporation, whose owners objected to the federal law requiring coverage of contraceptives in employees' health-care programs. Most justices seemed to side with the plaintiffs' contention that a corporation should enjoy the same religious-freedom protections as an individual.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993 to protect individual consciences, allows for exemptions from laws that violate individuals' religious principles, unless the government can show an overwhelming state interest. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, defending the "Obamacare" law in the Supreme Court hearing, argued that by allowing for broad religious exemptions, the Court would undermine the government's ability to set legal policies. But Chief Justice John Roberts observed that the 1993 law has already allowed for those religious exemptions.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, often identified as the likely swing vote in closely contested Supreme Court cases, showed some sympathy for both sides of the argument. While he said that female employees might be harmed by a policy that did not cover contraceptives, he also remarked that if the Obama administration's argument prevailed, "A profit corporation could be forced in principle to pay for abortions."
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- High Court Seems Divided over Birth Control Rule (AP)
- Justices sound ready to reject contraceptives mandate under Obamacare (Los Angeles Times)
- U.S. top court signals support for corporate religious claims (Reuters)
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