Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases involving
challenges to the HHS mandate, Sebelius
v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga
Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.
In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., the appeals
court temporarily lifted the requirement that the craft-store chain provide
contraceptive coverage for their workers. The company cited religious reasons.
separate lower court ruled against Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., requiring
the Pennsylvania company to follow the contraception rule.
Obama administration wants the high court to resolve the split in the lower
courts and uphold the contraception rule.
White House released a statement Tuesday calling the requirement for private
companies to provide contraceptive coverage “lawful and essential to women’s
health.” It pointed to what it called a “commonsense” exception for religious
steps protect both women’s health and religious beliefs, and seek to ensure
that women and familiesnot their bosses or corporate CEOscan make personal
health decisions based on their needs and their budgets,” said White House
press secretary Jay Carney in the statement.
“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, in a press release from the Becket Fund. “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.”
Hobby Lobby provides contraception to employees at no
additional cost under the company’s health plan, but does not cover drugs and
devices that may operate as abortifacients, as is required by the HHS mandate.
Not complying with the mandate or dropping employee health coverage altogether
would result in millions of dollars in fines for the company.
Conestoga Wood Specialties is owned by a Mennonite
family from Pennsylvania that also objects to offering employees coverage for
abortifacients. An appeals court denied the company’s claim earlier this year;
the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal to that decision.
“The government shouldn’t
be able to punish Americans for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” said David
Cortman, senior counsel for Conestoga at the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“The administration has no business forcing citizens to choose between making a
living and living free. We trust the Supreme Court will agree. A government
that forces any citizen to participate in immoral
actslike the use of abortion drugsunder threat of crippling fines is a
government everyone should fear.”
The justices will hear oral arguments in the two cases next spring.