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DOJ Seeks SCOTUS Review of Hobby Lobby Decision

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on September 27, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's Obamacare week at FindLaw in more ways than one. While on one hand we're posting about the practical implications of the law, with the other we're posting about constitutional challenges (yes, again) to the law.

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius

You may remember that back in July, the Tenth Circuit ruled that Hobby Lobby, a for-profit, secular corporation, had Article III standing to bring claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") and the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause. Hobby Lobby Stores sought exception from the Obamacare contraception mandate on grounds that it would be against their religious beliefs.

Relying heavily on the Supreme Court's opinion in Citizens United v. FEC, the Tenth Circuit extended the free exercise protections of the First Amendment to corporations. The Tenth Circuit also relied on the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Lee, which held that a person could not be forced to pay taxes when "payment of taxes and receipt of benefits violate the taxpayer's religion."

While the court did not decide the merits of the case, the Tenth Circuit held en banc that Hobby Lobby had standing to bring its claims.

DOJ Files Cert Petition

Last week the Department of Justice filed a 251-page petition for writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to determine whether a for-profit corporation could deny its employees health coverage (and contraceptives) under the RFRA because of the corporation's owners' religious beliefs, reports the AP.

On the same day, the Alliance Defending Freedom submitted a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court asking it to determine whether the Third Circuit correctly held, in a very similar fact pattern to Hobby Lobby, that a for-profit, secular corporation could not "exercise" religion in Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.

Will Cert Be Granted?

Of course it's impossible to know just yet if the Supreme Court will grant cert, but we can speculate. Considering the circuit split, and cert petitions filed on the very same day, it seems likely. Add to that the Sixth Circuit's recent decision (also last week) coming to the same conclusion as the Third Circuit in Conestoga, and it seems like the Court will need to step in. It's only a matter of time before challenges like this are brought before every circuit.

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