TULSA - The United States Supreme Court takes up the case of Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores Tuesday morning, and has actually scheduled additional time to hear arguments.
The extra time is due to the complexities of the issues involved, including whether for-profit corporations have a right to religious freedom, whether they can limit female employees' access to some forms of birth control, and possibly even whether human life begins at conception.
On the SCOTUS blog, sponsored by Bloomberg Law, the main argument is summarized like this:
Whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq., which provides that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.
The extra time may also help the court deal with the large number of amicus briefs filed in the case by interested third parties.
Hobby Lobby's owners have balked at being forced to provide health coverage for abortions, and for some forms of contraception which they view as being de facto abortificants, because they can stop a pregnancy after conception.
Examples would include the "Plan-b" pill and ella, which some refer to as "emergency contraception" medications.
According to U.S. Congressman James Lankford, whose district includes Hobby Lobby's headquarters, the company could face fines of $2,000 per employee per year if it simply refused to provide any health coverage at all.
The fine for providing health coverage but refusing to cover what it sees as abortificants would be $36,500 per employee annually.
Lankford claims that's the Obama's Administration levying a punitive fine to force a company to comply with beliefs its owners do not hold.
Hobby Lobby's attorneys argue that they can't be forced to comply, because of protections under the RFRA.
The administration says the RFRA protects individuals, not corporations.
There are separate cases involving the Affordable Care Act's contraception provision as it applies to non-profit religious organizations such as hospital, charities, and colleges.