Religious Liberty at Issue as Supreme Court Considers HHS Mandate


Edward White


March 20, 2014

On March 25, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral argument in two cases dealing with the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate, which requires many employers—despite their religious objections—to arrange and pay for employee health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization. At issue in these two cases is whether the federal government can force a family-owned business and its owners to violate their religious beliefs in the operation of that business. We at the American Center for Law & Justice say “no” and the Obama Administration says “yes.” The two cases before the Supreme Court involve three family-owned businesses and their owners. One case involves Hobby Lobby Stores, an arts and crafts chain, and Mardel, a bookstore and educational supply company that specializes in Christian materials. The two businesses are owned and operated by a family of devout Christians. The other case involves Conestoga Wood Specialties, which makes doors and other wooden parts for kitchen cabinets. It is owned and operated by a family of devout Mennonites. The companies and their owners oppose the HHS Mandate because, to implement the Mandate, they would have to violate their pro-life religious beliefs by providing and paying for abortion-inducing drugs and devices for their employees. If the family businesses and their owners follow their religious beliefs and refuse to comply with the Mandate, the federal government can impose millions of dollars in annual fines. Such significant fines would quickly destroy the businesses, put their employees out of work, and deprive their customers of their products and services. The ACLJ filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief with the Supreme Court in support of the three businesses and their owners. The ACLJ filed the brief on behalf of itself, more than 90,000 ACLJ supporters, and twenty-one family business owners. The ACLJ has been challenging the HHS Mandate for more than two years. Our efforts have encompassed submitting formal comments to HHS when the Mandate was being contemplated, filing seven federal lawsuits against the Mandate, including the first lawsuit filed on behalf of a family-owned business and its owner (e.g., here , here , and here ), filing more than fifteen “friend-of-the-court” briefs in support of those who are also challenging the Mandate (e.g., here , here , and here ), and filing a certiorari petition with the United States Supreme Court for the Court to consider a central issue involved in the various Mandate cases. To date, the ACLJ has been fortunate to have obtained injunctions against the application and enforcement of the Mandate for all of our clients. The Supreme Court is expected to decide the Hobby Lobby/Mardel and Conestoga Wood cases by this June. The Court’s decision will impact the more than forty-five other federal lawsuits challenging the Mandate that have been filed by for-profit businesses and their owners, including the seven cases filed by the ACLJ. We will continue to keep you posted about the important events related to the litigation involving the HHS Mandate.