Yesterday, 91 members of the U.S. House of Representatives filed an amicus brief in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court in which Hobby Lobby is objecting to various provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), or “Obamacare.”
The New Yorker did a good backgrounder on the case in November:
“Is the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which the Supreme Court agreed to hear this week, about health-care mandates or about religion? Hobby Lobby's owners, who are Christian-they buy ads in newspapers on Easter recommending that people get to know Jesus Christ-feel that their right to worship freely is being denied by the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby is a privately held for-profit company, with five hundred stores selling arts-and-crafts supplies and thirteen thousand full-time employees, not all of them Christians. Under the A.C.A., a company like that needs to get its workers insurance that meets minimum standards or else pay a fine. One of those standards is preventive health care for women; that includes contraception. And that, Hobby Lobby's owners say, would make them “morally complicit” in the “death of an embryo.” They can't pay for insurance and be good Christians, they say, and the fine would cost them a lot of money.”
To see why Obamacare doesn't violate the free exercise of religion, read below the jump. Different federal courts have arrived at different conclusions concerning this question; as a result, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
The 91 U.S. representatives, including four from Texas – Eddie Bernice Johnson, Lloyd Doggett, Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Marc Veasey – are not parties to the suit, but in their amicus brief argued that the contraceptive coverage requirement of the ACA – the provision objected to by Hobby Lobby under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) – was constitutional and did not violate the free exercise of religion.
They wrote that:
“[The provision] should be upheld because it does not substantially burden any free exercise rights that the for-profit corporations challenging the provisions may have, serves compelling governmental interests of advancing public health and welfare and promoting gender equality, and is the least restrictive means of accomplishing those compelling interests.”
The amicus brief attacked the religious challenge to Obamacare, arguing that corporations such as Hobby Lobby are not compelled “to administer or use the contraceptive methods to which they object.” Instead, ACA only requires the corporations to “provide comprehensive insurance coverage under which their employees may make their own personal decisions, in consultation with their doctors, whether to use whatever form of contraception, if any, best suits their individualized health and wellness needs.”
The brief further argued that the contraceptive coverage requirement was the least restrictive means because it was the result of a choice by Congress to use the existing private health insurance system to serve both public health and gender equality. It further characterized any burden on a corporation such as Hobby Lobby as attenuated, whereas the refusal to provide the coverage would restrict the access of female employees to their rights under federal law.
The cases are Kathleen Sebelius, et al. v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al., 13-354 and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al., 13-356. They are scheduled for oral argument on March 25.