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Coffey: Justices Won't Dodge Religious Rights in Contraceptive Case

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 06:34 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to dodge the issue of whether corporations have religious rights, legal analyst Kendall Coffey says.

The court will soon consider objections to a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.

A Reuters article on Thursday said the justices "could dodge the contentious question."

Coffey, a founding member of the Coffey Burlington law firm in Miami doesn't agree.

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"Corporations are basically a form in which a bunch of people, sometimes a few, sometimes thousands and thousands, do business and those people have constitutional rights and they have First Amendment rights," he told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"Whatever the political controversy may be, I don't think the court cares about it. This is a very strong First Amendment court and I don't think I agree with Reuters that they're likely to duck this issue.

"Because if they're going to say that corporations have a First Amendment right with respect to political speech, political advocacy, then why would they cut those rights in half and say it's only political speech, it's not religious freedom?

Coffey said the First Amendment is "very, very much" about both.

"We know what this country was founded on — escaping religious persecution, being able to speak your own mind — so this court is deeply, deeply committed to those values," he said.

"I don't think they're going to duck. We'll see what happens next week and then, of course, ultimately, when the opinion itself is written."

The court will hear oral arguments in two cases on March 25.

According to Reuters, the justices could rule that individuals — who own closely held companies, rather than the corporations themselves — can argue their religious rights have been violated.

That decision would allow the court to avoid criticism that it favors corporate rights too much.

The cases are part of a challenge by the owners of companies who are demanding an exemption from the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

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