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

Oral arguments in both cases are scheduled for March 25 and a decision is expected some time this summer.

Government disputes burden

Hobby Lobby faces nearly $500 million in tax penalties annually if the company offers health insurance but fails to comply with the mandate, or $26 million in penalties if it drops its health care coverage all together.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act prohibits the government from imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion, and Hobby Lobby contends the Affordable Care Act does just that.

The Obama administration argued in a brief filed last month that corporations aren't afforded the same protections under the law as individuals and that, even if they were, the Affordable Care Act does not impose a substantial burden on them.

“A group health plan covers many items and services, and participants and their dependents, in consultation with their health care providers, decide which ones to use,” the government argued.

“Those decisions by independent third parties are not attributable to the employer that finances the plan or to the individuals who own the company, and the connection is too indirect as a matter of law to impose a substantial burden.”

Hobby Lobby countered in its brief that the government obviously sees a substantial burden on religious exercise in the mandate because it exempted “countless nonprofit entities” such as churches and religious organizations.

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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