Counting Down to Hobby Lobby
In just under three weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby LobbyStores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. These two cases ask whether private corporations have ability to exercise religious freedom, and if so, whether the contraception mandate enacted by the Affordable Care Act violates the religious freedom of those corporations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). If you want to read more about the details of the case, and to learn more about the Reform Movement’s position on the contraception mandate, check out this blog.
As we wait for March 25th (the day of oral argument) there has been no shortage of religious liberty stories in the news. The nation’s attention has been focused on a bill that was nearly enacted in Arizona – S. B. 1062 – was ultimately vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer. If enacted, this bill would have allowed, for example, business owners to refuse to serve LGBT people. At its most basic level, the legislation was a version of a state level RFRA, which is essentially a religious liberty trump card. The Reform Movement opposed this bill, explaining that:
We are deeply offended by those in Arizona, Kansas, Tennessee, and Idaho (where similar bills are pending) who seek to revive state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians in the name of religion. So too we respect each individual’s right to their deeply held religious beliefs. But the compelling interest of the state to bar discrimination on the basis of inherent characteristics, including sexual orientation, requires that the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom cannot be the basis to deny another individual their own rights to liberty. This is especially true when those who wish to discriminate provide a “public accommodation.
Some are drawing a connection between what is happening on the state level regarding these problematic versions of RFRA, and the possible outcome of the Hobby Lobby case. While the two circle around religious liberty, the potential consequences of a decision favoring Hobby Lobby would affect health care law, general women’s health and equality, corporate law, and religious liberty and First Amendment law, to name a few.
The broad scope of the case indicates its importance. The multi-faceted questions it asks and the multitude of articles and discussions this case has inspired is a testament to the public interest in this case as well. As always, we will continue to monitor this case carefully, so check back here for updates!