Landmark religious freedom case before US Supreme Court

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The US Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a landmark religious freedom case that will determine whether businesses have to provide health insurance for contraceptives and abortifacients.

The case was taken by Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain of arts and crafts shops, challenging the Obama administration's 'HHS mandate', which requires employers to cover contraceptives and some abortifacients in the health insurance plans they provide for employees.U.S.-Supreme-Court.jpg

Hobby Lobby are appealing to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law passed under the Clinton Administration which forbids the government from placing a 'substantial burden' on citizens' free exercise religious freedom unless the government can prove it has a 'compelling interest' in doing so.

The Obama Administration is arguing that for-profit corporations do not have religious freedom rights in the same way that people do.

According to Politico, the court seemed divided on ideological lines, with the four more liberal-leaning justices supporting the White House's position, and the four conservative-leaning ones looking set to oppose it. The court's usual 'swing vote', Anthony Kennedy, questioned both sides but seemed to express more scepticism of the White House's argument.

“Under your view, a for-profit corporation…could be forced in principle to pay for abortions?” he asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. “Your reasoning would permit that.”

Verrilli accepted this, but said that “there was no such law currently on the books.”

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