What Hobby Lobby's case could have in store for religious freedom and ACA
The government also contends the ACA doesn't create a burden on the Greens' ability to practice their religious beliefs.
"Federal law does not require the Greens to provide health insurance, particular health benefits, or any other form of compensation to the corporation's employees. The Greens do not personally employ the 13,000 individuals who work for Hobby Lobby; the corporation does," Justice's brief stated.
However, the 10th Circuit Court, which sided with Hobby Lobby, disagreed, concluding that "the plain language of the (RFRA) text encompasses corporations, including ones like Hobby Lobby ," according to a response filed by lawyers representing Hobby Lobby.
Lori Widham, a Becket Fund attorney who is part of the Hobby Lobby legal defense team, said the religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby's owners are inseparable from how they operate their company. She said their Christian faith influences the decisions to close its stores on Sundays, play Christian music over the in-store audio system, and pay its workers at least 80 percent more than the federal minimum wage.
But the issue before the Supreme Court is whether the government can force Hobby Lobby's owners to go against their religious views on abortion, which prohibit them from paying for contraceptive devices and medicines that they believe would effectively abort a fetus.
Noting that Hobby Lobby's health plan covers the costs of 16 of the 20 mandated forms of birth control, Widham said, "Women have the right to access all forms of contraception. We're talking about who has to provide it for you. So that's the question here: is Hobby Lobby required to provide all forms of contraception, including (drugs that enable) the termination of human life, or is that left between the employee and their doctor?"
Social media outreach
Another unique wrinkle in the current case has been an active social media effort by Hobby Lobby to engage the public, largely to educate supporters about the firm's position and how it treats employees. A company-sponsored Twitter feed, @HobbyLobbyCase, offers messages supporters can share, such as a quote from former Texas Congressman Ron Paul supporting the Greens' position, or worker testimonials: "The Green family offers industry-leading wages and benefits because they deeply care for their employees." A Facebook page is dedicated to the case and offers similar messages and has scored over 32,000 "likes" and 12,630 followers.
Widham said the company "had a social media presence before this case, and will have one after this case." She added, "We're not trying to win this case via Facebook, but they are getting a lot of questions from people, (and they're) trying to respond and tell their story."
Asked how she thought the Supreme Court might rule, Widham said, "I never like to predict what a court I'm in front of is going to do, but I am hopeful we will get a strong ruling in favor of religious liberty."
Regardless of the outcome, law professor Lupu predicted an interesting hearing. "Just as a scholar, I think these cases are spectacularly fascinating," he said. "Not only do they involve this culture war, but the legal intricacies are spectacularly rich."
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