Supreme Court Sets Oral Arguments for Obamacare Birth-Control Mandate

Thursday, 09 Jan 2014 04:35 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores on March 25, on how much religious protection commercial companies enjoy under the Constitution, according to The Hill.
The Affordable Care Act requires a so-called birth-control mandate whereby free contraceptive services are included in employee health coverage. Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned craft firm, has argued that this requirement goes against its religious rights and beliefs.

The nine justices are being asked to decide whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 allows Hobby Lobby to "deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law based on the religious objections" of its owners, according to the SCOTUS Blog.

The Act requires that the government not "burden a person's exercise of religion" unless there is no other way to insure "a compelling governmental interest."

The Hobby Lobby case will be heard together with the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. The Conestoga plea addresses the claim that religious owners and their businesses have rights based on the First Amendment — not just the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

A decision is expected in June.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor temporarily enjoined enforcement of the "birth-control mandate" for the Little Sisters of the Poor run by group of Colorado nuns.
Her ruling bars the Obama administration from enforcing the birth-control requirement of the Affordable Care Act against this Catholic order.

The Affordable Care Act exempts religious employers such as churches from the contraceptive requirement. Commercial firms, like Hobby Lobby, are not exempt.

The Little Sisters of the Poor is a nonprofit group that is not a religious entity in the legal sense thus how Obamacare impacts on its situation needs to be decided in the Federal courts, The New York Times reported.

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