Nine U.S. senators and two U.S. representatives have filed a legal brief in support of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.'s court battle against the Affordable Care Act, joining the state of Oklahoma and 10 other groups that have backed the company.
Lawmakers who have attached their names to the brief include Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Dan Coats, R-Ind.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Charles Grassley, R-Iowa; Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; Richard Shelby, R-Ala. and U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas; and Frank Wolf, R-Va.
The brief was filed late Tuesday in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, where Hobby Lobby's lawsuit against the federal government is pending.
The lawmakers all voted to enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a federal law aimed at strengthening the free exercise clause in the U.S. Constitution.
The federal law is a key part of Hobby Lobby's legal argument on why it should be exempt from an Affordable Care Act mandate that requires it to cover the cost of emergency contraceptives for its workers through its employee health plan.
Hobby Lobby founder David Green and his family believe some types of emergency contraceptives, including the morning-after pill, are a form of abortion, which conflicts with the family's Christian religious beliefs.
Hobby Lobby has said it would rather face fines of up to $1.3 million a day than cover the contraceptives.
The federal government argues that constitutional rights to religious freedom do not apply to Hobby Lobby because the company is a secular, for-profit corporation.
The lawmakers' brief argues that Congress intended Religious Freedom Restoration Act protections to include corporations.
The federal government “may not pick and choose whose exercise of religion is protected and whose is not,” the brief states.
“The brief leaves no doubt that Congress intended to protect the religious freedom of those like Hobby Lobby and its founder, David Green, against federal attempts to force them to insure abortion-inducing drugs,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm that is representing Hobby Lobby in its court fight.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt also has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Hobby Lobby, as has the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
“The notion that a federal court may don ecclesiastical robes and purport to tell citizens that they do not correctly perceive the tenets of their faith is entirely foreign to American legal practice and experience,” the archdiocese said in its brief.
The appellate court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case this spring.