The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has asked the Supreme Court to hear the recently appealed Hobby Lobby health care case.
The latest turn in the controversial case could provide a decisive answer on whether the Affordable Care Act—also known as Obamacare—can legally require businesses to offer certain forms of contraception in violation of the owners’ religious beliefs.
Although there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case, the official request makes it more likely, as does the fact that multiple similar cases have been brought to federal courts in recent months. A ruling by the Supreme Court would remove inconsistent application across jurisdictions, which would be especially useful for businesses such as Hobby Lobby that have locations in multiple states.
“The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for the Hobby Lobby case. “We’re confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government’s extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone—including people who run a business.”
In June, the Christian-owned craft chain won a major victory before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the government’s argument that the Green family and their family-owned businesses—Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian Stores—could not legally exercise religion, according to the Becket Fund. The court further said the businesses were likely to win their challenge to the HHS mandate.
The government’s petition comes the same day as a petition in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, another case involving a challenge to the HHS mandate.
The court will consider the government’s Hobby Lobby petition in the next six weeks. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June 2014.
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