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The Source: Religious Rights In For-Profit Businesses

Flickr user Adam Fagen (afagen)

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.; the hearing also includes Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius

The case weighs the rights of business owners over their employees and how far business owners' expression of religious beliefs can extend. It poses the question further: Can a for-profit, private company exercise religion? 

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are owned by devout Christians who do not want to cover contraceptives in their employee health plans since some of them conflict with their beliefs -- specifically, intrauterine devices or emergency contraceptives like Plan B.

Several other for-profit businesses have filed suit as well on the contraceptive mandate. 

The businesses would be fined $1.3 million a day, nearly $475 million, if they lose the case and continue to deny coverage. They could opt to drop all health coverage for employees but argue they shouldn't be forced to do that since it puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

The companies believe they are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The government argues the RFRA doesn't apply as they it was passed to protect nonprofits. It argues corporations aren't people and have no constitutional recourse regarding free expression of religion. They argue further that the companies would shift a burden onto their employees that don't necessarily share their religious beliefs.


  • Roger Pilon, director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank
  • David H. Gans, director of the Human Rights, Civil Rights and Citizenship Program at the Constitutional Accountability Center

Additional Links:

  • Read the amicus brief filed by the Constitutional Accountability Center here
  • Read the amicus brief filed by the Cato Institute here

*This is the first segment in the March 25 edition of The Source, which airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM -- audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org