Hobby Lobby Tea Leaves: What Happened During Today's Oral Arguments?

Posted: Mar 25, 2014 4:15 PM
Hobby Lobby Tea Leaves: What Happened During Today's Oral Arguments?

When the High Court hands down its decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby in June, the nation will be all ears. At stake in this landmark case is the ability for family-owned corporations to operate their businesses in accordance with their faith and free from government coercion. Guy breaks down the false arguments advanced by the Left to distort what the case is actually about. For example, the owners of Hobby Lobby already provide 16 of the 20 contraceptives approved by the FDA to their employees; what they object to is the HHS mandate under Obamacare which compels them to provide the kinds of contraceptives that may induce abortions, thus ending human life.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (a law firm representing Hobby Lobby) has a succinct recap of what’s at stake:

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the landmark case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, determining whether individuals lose their religious freedom when they open a family business.

At issue is the Health and Human Service (HHS) Mandate which requires David and Barbara Green and their family business Hobby Lobby to provide and facilitate four potential life-terminating drugs and devices in their health insurance plan, against their religious convictions, or pay severe fines to the IRS (see video).

“Our family started Hobby Lobby built on our faith and together as a family. We’ve kept that tradition for more than forty years and we want to continue to live out our faith in the way we do business,” said Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby. “The choice that the government has forced on us is out of step with the history of our great nation founded on religious freedom. We believe that no American should lose their religious freedom just because they open a family business. We are thankful that the Supreme Court has heard our case, and we prayerfully await the justices’ decision.”

The question everyone is asking now that the oral arguments are over is how will the High Court rule? Will they rule in favor of the businesses being represented (Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, as it happens) or the Obama administration? Impossible to know. But early tea leaves suggest that the Supreme Court may very well rule in favor of religious freedom, but obviously, we won’t know until the summer:

Meanwhile, NRO’s Ed Whelan knows a source who attended the oral arguments, and he is optimistic about the outcome:

I didn’t attend this morning’s argument and will therefore reserve my own reading of the tea leaves until after I’ve reviewed the transcript. For what it’s worth, one person who did attend and who is very knowledgeable about the issues in the case (but who might suffer from an overly optimistic temperament) has given me his quick take. He sees a 6-3 victory for Hobby Lobby, with Kennedy and Breyer joining the conservatives on the bottom line.

What's more, a legal counselor for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty told The DC: "the general tenor of the questions were in our favor." USA Today notes, too, that the Obama administration’s lawyers didn’t perform particularly well during oral arguments:

ABC Protects Verbally Abusive Host
Jeff Crouere

The Obama administration struggled Tuesday to defend the so-called contraception mandate in its fledgling health care law before a Supreme Court clearly sympathetic to religious objections raised by employers.

While the justices were predictably divided along ideological lines, it appeared that a majority of them did not want to force for-profit corporations to offer health plans that include birth control methods they claim cause abortions.

"Isn't that what we're talking about?" Chief Justice John Roberts demanded of the government's lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who clearly sought to avoid the inconclusive medical debate over intrauterine devices and morning-after pills. Verrilli responded that 2 million women rely on IUDs alone and do not equate their use with abortion.

You’ll recall that Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly cast the deciding vote in favor of ruling the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate tax constitutional. Thus it’s a good sign for defenders of religious liberty that he was skeptical of the case the government made during oral arguments. That being said, oral arguments are no indication of how the High Court will ultimately rule -- although they can provide a window into the Justices’ line of thinking.

So now, my friends, we wait. As a for-profit corporation, will the owners of Hobby Lobby be granted the same exemption under Obamacare granted to non-profits and some other religious organizations?

We’ll find out in June.