Religious Liberties at Stake in Obamacare Challenge

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The Supreme Court will hear legal challenges from two Christian-owned companies that oppose covering some forms of birth control required by the President Barack Obama's health care law.

The cases will mark the first time the court has considered the law since it upheld it 17 months ago in a 5-4 decision. The ruling will likely have a significant impact on the issue of religious liberty as it applies to for-profit corporations.

Roughly 40 companies have filed suit against the contraception mandate, which includes abortion-inducing drugs.

The court will consider two suits: one from Conestoga Wood Specialties, a woodworking business in Pennsylvania owned by a Mennonite family, and one from Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based art-and-crafts chain founded by David Green.

Green said sharing the Gospel is the driving force behind his quest for success.

"There are so many decisions that we have to make that we just can't make without God, the Holy Spirit guiding us," he told CBN News several years ago, "And it has been very important for us, our family, to lean on the Holy Spirit."

Green employs 13,000 full-time employees and has generous work-place policies. Over the years he's raised the company's minimum wage to $11 an hour and closed his stores on Sundays to allow employees time for family and worship.

Green, however, objects to the Obamacare mandate that requires employers to subsidize birth control as part of employee healthcare benefits.

Green believes that life begins at conception and opposes the kinds of birth control that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.

Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Specialties, and about 40 other companies have filed suit over the mandate. The Supreme Court will now decide whether the religious beliefs of company owners can trump a government mandate.

Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, said the ruling will be historic.

"This would be the first time the Supreme Court has ever recognized that corporations are protected in their religious liberty in the same way that living, breathing individuals are," she said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the health care law "puts women and families in control of their health care" and notes that churches are exempt from the mandate.

But many religiously affiliated groups are not exempt, and 40 organizations have filed suit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 

They include Christian colleges, hospitals, charities, and Catholic dioceses.

So far, the lower courts have been divided on the issue, giving the Supreme Court more reason to weigh in.

The court will likely hear arguments in March and issue a decision in June.

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Heather Sells

Heather Sells

CBN News Reporter

Heather Sells enjoys reporting on a variety of issues for CBN News. Some of her recent stories have focused on religious liberties, technology, AIDS, overseas missions, domestic trafficking, and politics.  Follow Heather on Twitter @SellsHeather and "like" her at Facebook.com/HeatherSellsCBNNews.