Supreme Court to hear two Obamacare challenges

The Supreme Court has accepted two challenges to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, on Tuesday that question the government’s ability to compel for-profit companies with religious convictions to pay for birth-control coverage.

350px-Supreme_Court_US_2010Court orders issued late Tuesday morning confirmed that the Justices will hear the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases.

In past situation, the Justices have considered linked cases together and they said in the order the cases are consolidated. And given the timing of the decision, the lawyers for both sides should be in front of the Justices in March 2014.

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The Justices didn’t grant, or reject, two other cases: Autocam and Liberty University.

In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. , the national hobby and crafts chain store petitioned the Court to take on the Obamacare birth control mandate that applies to for-profit companies. The Obama administration also has asked the Court to take up the Hobby Lobby case.

The central issue in the Hobby Lobby case is if the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 allows a for-profit corporation to deny employees health insurance coverage related to contraceptives, because of the religious objections of the company’s owners.

In the Conestoga Wood case, a Mennonite family-owned, profit-making business claims that the ACA’s birth control mandate violates the company’s rights under the First Amendment free exercise clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In its petition to the Court, Conestoga’s lawyers claim its case was a better one for the Justices to review than Hobby Lobby or Autocam.

The Justice Department had wanted the Supreme Court to heat the Hobby Lobby case first, and to hold off on the other three cases. But lawyers in the other three cases believed the Hobby Lobby case was too narrow in its definition and they want a broader interpretation.

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