The U.S. Supreme Court has said it will weigh in on the constitutionality of a provision in the U.S. Affordable Care Act requiring most for-profit companies to offer insurance coverage for birth control to their employees. Oral arguments relating to the case, Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. vs. Sebelius, will be heard by the High Court on March 25. Ahead of the hearing, CBA, the association for Christian retail, filed an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts retailer and owner of the 35-store Mardel chain, which sells Christian books and Bibles (Conestoga is a Mennonite-owned manufacturer of wood doors and components for kitchen cabinets). Others in the book industry signing on to the brief are Christian publisher Tyndale House, Deseret Books (the trade publishing arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and Feldheim Publishers (an Orthodox Jewish house).
According to the CBA brief, the question being presented to the Court is “whether for-profit corporations are categorically excluded from protection for free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act” when owners object to laws that they believe conflict with their religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby first filed suit September 2012; in December 2012, Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied the company’s request for an injunction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver later ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. Other suits against the mandate have also had conflicting results. Now the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the issue.
CBA’s amicus brief is one of 82 that have been filed by legislators, religious bodies, companies, and organizations; some support the provision, but most (58) oppose it. While some opponents object to providing coverage for any of the 20 methods of birth control included in the mandate, others, including Hobby Lobby/Mardel, object only to providing coverage for methods they believe induce abortion—such as the morning-after and week-after pills. In a press release from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is defending Hobby Lobby, Becket founder and CEO David Green said, “These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith, and now our family is being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining [our] religious beliefs.” Neither lead attorney Kyle Duncan nor Green were available for comment at press time.
Tyndale House, a publisher of Christian books and Bibles, filed its own suit in 2012 and was issued a preliminary injunction by a D.C. court. The government appealed the ruling but later withdrew its appeal, and the injunction stands while Tyndale House Publishers vs. Sebelius makes its way through the courts.
Asked whether any other members of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association were planning to sue, ECPA executive director Mark Kuyper said, “I am not aware of any other actions against the mandate, though I am sure any of our publishers impacted by the mandate are opposed to it.” ECPA is not planning any legal action as an organization. “We are simply providing our members with our legal update on the progress of the case,” Kuyper said.