Kathleen Sibelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. & Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sibelius

Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, preventive health care must be provided at zero co-pay to the insured. The administration defined preventive care as including all FDA approved contraception methods. Access to contraception is of critical importance to women’s health, and without insurance coverage, can cost up to $1000 a year for common methods. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods challenged this requirement. These for profit corporations are owned by religious individuals who sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), claiming not only that their own religion was burdened by the insurance their employees received having to provide certain types of contraception they (erroneously) identified as abortifacients, but also that the corporation itself had religious exercise rights under the First Amendment.

CFI’s brief challenges the corporation’s arguments. It demonstrates that to interpret RFRA in this manner would, itself, be unconstitutional. Settled Supreme Court precedent shows that no law can, consistent with the Establishment Clause, take a burden off one person and impose it on another, because of the first person’s religious beliefs. In order to satisfy the owners’ religious faith, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods ask that their employees be denied a benefit other employees hired by people with different religious beliefs will receive. This is not defending religious freedom, but instead enshrining religious privilege. CFI also argues that the contraceptive mandate does not impose a substantial burden on the employers, as any decision to use contraception is made by the employee. If such an exemption is granted, it will be impossible to constrain. CFI notes that equal arguments could be made for Jehovah’s Witnesses not to cover blood transfusions, Scientologists not to cover psychiatric care, and Christian Scientists not to cover health insurance at all.