On Tuesday, March 25, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the case involving the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. Prof. Joshua Hawley is one of the attorneys for Hobby Lobby. The contraceptive mandate requires businesses to fund twenty forms of contraception, including four contraceptives that work by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. While there are exemptions available for churches, there are no exemptions for for-profit businesses like Hobby Lobby.
Hobby Lobby is owned by the Green family of Oklahoma City. It has more than 500 stores nationwide and 13,000 full-time employees. The Greens are practicing Christians who are opposed to abortion as a matter of their religious faith. They believe that funding the four contraceptives that prevent implantation is morally equivalent to funding abortions. Federal law requires the Greens to pay for these drugs or face $1.3 million in fines daily.
The Greens filed suit to challenge the mandate in September 2012. In June 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Greens a temporary injunction pending appeal. The government appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in September 2013.
The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which guarantees to all persons the right to free exercise of religion, applies to for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby and to Hobby Lobby’s owners.
Hawley believes the case is ultimately about whether citizens may operate their businesses in accord with their moral convictions. “The government claims that people who run for-profit corporations do not have religious liberty rights when it comes to managing their businesses because for-profit corporations have nothing to do with moral convictions. They’re about profits. That’s a profoundly troubling argument,” Hawley claims.