Hobby Lobby counsel: ‘Justices seemed deeply skeptical of the government’s arguments’

Font Size:

The lawyers for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood were positive following their oral arguments against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate before the Supreme Court Tuesday.

“We are encouraged by the arguments today. The justices seemed deeply skeptical of the government’s arguments that Americans who open a closely held family business give up their right to religious freedom and can be subject to the mandates that they do,” Lori Windham, counsel for Hobby Lobby with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said after oral agreements. “The Green family has long operated Hobby Lobby consistently with its religious beliefs and religious principles. They hope to be able [to continue] doing so.”

Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the consolidated case of two businesses — Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood — challenging the Obama administration’s mandate requiring employers to provide insurance that covers contraception, or face hefty fines. The owners of both family companies oppose the mandate on religious grounds.

“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,” Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby added on the steps of the Supreme Court. “We were encouraged by today’s arguments, we are thankful that the Supreme Court has heard our case, and we prayerfully await the justices’ decision.”

Also outside the Supreme Court were advocates for the Obamacare contraception mandate.

“What the court heard today is that if it were to find for the plaintiffs in this case it would be the first time the court of this country had proactively extinguished the rights of any Americans. This is about all women,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro Choice America.

“Our bodies are not our bosses’ business,” she added.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards also weighed in, saying the case showed “the importance of having women on the Supreme Court.”

“I was so proud to be there as a woman who cares about women’s health to have the justices talk about the fact that what’s at stake in this case is whether millions of women and their right to preventive care, including birth control, is trumped by a handful of CEOs who have their own personal opinions about birth control,” Richards said, adding that she is optimistic the court will rule in favor of the government’s mandate.

And while the advocates for the mandate contended it was a women’s health issue, David Cortman — the lawyer for Conestega Wood — reiterated that the issue is about the free practice of religion in all aspects of life.

“They live their faith every day of the week — they don’t separate it when they open up their family business — and I think it is important here because this abortion pill mandate is an unprecedented intrusion in a private family business — where the government dictates, at the cost of severe and crippling fines and penalties, that people should violate their sincerely held religious believes,” Cortman said.

Paul Clement, of Bancroft PLLC, who argued the two consolidated cases, told reporters that based on the justices questions, “the court took this case very seriously as it does everyone of these cases.”

“We were certainly gratified that we had the opportunity to present our case to the court,” he added.

The court is expected to rule on the case before the end of its term in June.

Follow Caroline on Twitter