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10th Cir. to Rule on Contraceptive Mandate and Employers' Rights

By Kelly Cheung on May 29, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Arts and crafts chain, Hobby Lobby, will be anxiously waiting to hear the upcoming Tenth Circuit ruling on their challenge. The Oklahoma chain store challenges Obama’s health care laws requiring employers to offer free contraception coverage in employee health care plans. The court heard their oral arguments last week and should be deciding any time now on the case.

Hobby Lobby contends that President Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform infringes on their right to religious freedom. Hobby Lobby is a private business owner who would be affected by the contraceptive mandate requirements of the new health care laws. Hobby Lobby’s owners, the Green family, also have a sister company, Mardel Inc., a Christian bookseller.

The question before the Tenth Circuit is whether the for-profit corporations have a right to freedom of religion as do some religious non-profit institutions under the Public Health Service Act. The contraceptive mandate goes against the Greens' religion that finds the morning-after pill and similar contraceptives to constitute abortion, thus violating their Christian beliefs.

Hobby Lobby argues that it qualifies as a "person" under the act because corporations have been recognized as persons under other federal laws like the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. The Greens believe they should not have to leave their religious beliefs behind when running their business.

According to The Detroit News, during arguments, the eight-judge panel questioned both sides as to whether the contraceptives requirement is an undue burden on the Green family's exercise of their religion. The importance of this issue has caused more than thirty businesses to challenge this contraceptive mandate.

On the other side of the argument, supporters argue businesses are not persons. According to Reuters, U.S. District Court Judge Joe Heaton wrote "they do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiously-motivated actions separate and apart from the intention and direction of their individual actors."

With dozens of amicus briefs for either side, this case will surely land before the Supreme Court as ACLU's attorney, Louis Melling, opined to Reuters.

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