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Supreme Court to decide whether to tackle religious liberty, contraception mandate

Published: Saturday, Nov. 23 2013 10:00 p.m. MST

Laycock, Thomas and others who helped draft and lobby for the bill agree that for-profit corporations aren't mentioned and weren't discussed during the early debates on RFRA. But they said that when Congress later enhanced religious freedom protections with the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in 2000, it was discussed that both laws applied to businesses as well individuals.

"That certainly was contemplated" when RFRA was drafted, said Hatch, who along with 11 other lawmakers have filed an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby's case. "It's deeply troubling to me to see this administration trample on the religious freedom (RFRA) seeks to protect."

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June that Hobby Lobby's owners do have religious freedom rights that have been burdened by the mandate, and it granted the company's request for an injunction against enforcement of the mandate while their case is pending. The government has appealed to the Supreme Court.

But two other circuit courts have sided with the government, prompting Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. and Autocam Corp. to also file appeals to the high court. Bob Jones University has also filed an appeal in its contraception mandate case against the government, but on different issues.

Even Hobby Lobby took the unusual step in October of petitioning the court to grant the government's request for a hearing. "These issues need to be settled now by this court," Hobby Lobby's response to the government's appeal stated. "The existing conflict is likely to deepen rapidly, with the same issues pending in some (43) other cases around the country."

Lori Windam, an attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, said their case will answer critical questions on the limits of RFRA's protections signed into law 20 years ago.

"You have a government regulation forcing people to either follow their faith or paying enormous fines," she said. "If RFRA can’t protect people from that, how much power does RFRA really have?"

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @deseretbrown

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