Hobby Lobby Appealing Requirement to Provide Contraceptives to Employees

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US District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Photo: United States Government

Free Exercise Clause under the First Amendment

This clause states that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Green family argued requiring them to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs violates their religious beliefs.

The court concluded that the rights of individual members of the family have been violated, but the free exercise clause does not extend to corporations.

The court found although some constitutional rights, such as the right to free speech do apply to businesses, not all rights do.

Although exemptions to these provisions have been granted to churches and religious organizations, Hobby Lobby and Mardel do not fall under those categories. The business of the companies is not religious, and there is no requirement that employees hold the same religious beliefs as their employers.

The judge noted that the plaintiffs did not argue that the provisions of the ACA were enacted for a specific religious purpose. In fact, it was conceded by the Green family that the provisions of the legislation were a valid and neutral law of general application, intended to promote public health.

The court found that there was no likelihood of the argument the plaintiffs were denied their rights under the free expression clause succeeding at trial and an injunction was refused on this ground.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) states the government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion in a law of general application. An exemption to this principle is provided when the law is passed in furtherance of a compelling government interest and the government uses the least restrictive means of furthering its objectives.

The court found the plaintiffs had little chance of succeeding at trial on this ground. The burdens were found not to be substantial because they were placed on two corporations, not the individual members of the family. And the use of the stated methods of contraception was not placed upon members of the Green family but on other persons. The court found that although the definition of the term “substantial burden” was not the clearest, the requirements of the legislation would have to be more direct and personal before individual members of the family could rely on the RFRA.

Hobby Lobby: Freedom of Religion in Business Appeal

The plaintiffs filed an appeal of Judge Heaton’s decision with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the day after the ruling was handed down. The Green family will argue that every American has the right to conduct their business according to their religious beliefs.

Hobby Lobby is the largest company to challenge the contraceptive provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Resources:

Becket Fund. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. et. al. vs. Kathleen Sebelius, et. al. (2012). Accessed November 30, 2012.

Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby (2012). Accessed  November 30, 2012.

Fox News. Hobby Lobby files appeal in battle against ObamaCare contraception provisions(2012). Accessed November 30, 2012.

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