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Contraception mandate burdens religious exercise, Hobby Lobby argues

With U.S. Supreme Court arguments looming, the Oklahoma City-based chain says law protects corporations as well as individuals.
by Chris Casteel Modified: February 12, 2014 at 8:00 pm •  Published: February 11, 2014

The Affordable Care Act's mandate for contraception coverage is a textbook case of government intrusion on Hobby Lobby's right to exercise religion, attorneys for the Oklahoma City-based chain of craft stores contend in a new legal filing.

Just six weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case, Hobby Lobby told the justices in a brief filed Monday that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 makes no distinction between individuals and corporations.

“Ultimately, whether it is the individuals, the corporations, or both who are exercising religion, the government cannot simply wish away the reality that its policies substantially burden (Hobby Lobby's) religious exercise in a wholly unjustified manner,” the brief states.

Hobby Lobby, a national chain of more than 500 stores, and Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain, are closely held corporations owned by David Green and his family and operated according to their religious beliefs.

The companies do not object to providing health care plans that cover most of the contraceptives mandated by the government under the Affordable Care Act. However, they oppose four that can prevent an embryo from implanting in the womb: Plan B, Ella and two intrauterine devices.

“Respondents believe that human beings deserve protection from the moment of conception, and that providing insurance coverage for items that risk killing an embryo makes them complicit in abortion,” the brief filed Monday states.

The Obama administration is asking justices to reverse a ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Hobby Lobby and Mardel have the same rights that individuals have under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

A similar case involving a Pennsylvania furniture company owned by Mennonite Christians has been combined with the Hobby Lobby case; a federal appeals court ruled that the company, Conestoga Wood, did not have the same First Amendment religious protections as individuals.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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