WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has set a date for oral argument surrounding Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare, as well as a suit filed by a Mennonite-owned kitchen cabinet company.
As previously reported, the court announced in November that it had agreed to hear two cases: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.
The Obama administration had filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in September in an effort to force the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby to comply with the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare. It asked the court to overturn a preliminary injunction that was granted to the company this past July.
“My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case,” Hobby Lobby CEO David Green told reporters. “This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”
Hobby Lobby offers birth control coverage to its employees but refuses to provide coverage for the morning-after and week-after pill, which it believes are abortifacients.
Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, the plaintiff in the second case that was accepted, filed suit in December 2012 against the mandate, stating that it has never provided insurance coverage for medications that induce abortions, and doesn’t plan on doing so. It explained that terminating a life after conception violates its sincerely-held Mennonite beliefs, stating that it “is an intrinsic evil and a sin against God.”
However, a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush rejected the corporation’s request for an injunction, stating that for-profit businesses that are secular in nature cannot be considered religious entities, and are thus not entitled to an exemption. The 3rd Circuit likewise rejected the injunction.
Therefore, attorneys for Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation filed a petition with the nation’s highest court, asserting that the district court and appeals court are out of step with other circuits across the country. Attorney generals for eighteen states also filed briefs to urge the court to accept the appeal.
“If the government can force Americans to violate their deepest, most heartfelt convictions, there’s no stopping what government can do,” said co-counsel Randall Wegner of the Independence Law Center in Lancaster. “If freedom of conscience isn’t preserved, then all of our freedoms are in jeopardy.”
Attorneys for both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation are set to present oral argument before the Supreme Court on March 25th, as the cases have been consolidated into one central matter. The court could release a ruling as early as June, which could have a significant impact on religious-owned businesses nationwide.