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Hobby Lobby and the 2013 term of the Supreme Court

The core question of the Hobby Lobby case is whether Hobby Lobby, a privately held for-profit corporation, can refuse to cover certain but not all types of contraceptives mandated by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA or colloquolly Obamacare) on the ground of religious objection. Charged with implementing PPACA, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in its regulations, had afforded such exemptions and accommodations to religious institutions but not to for-profit corporations. Other than a claim on the First Amendment's Free Exercise clause, Hobby Lobby had also raised a claim on a 1993 federal statue - Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The federal government has maintained that affording the same exemptions and accommodations to for-profit corporations on their religious claims would render PPACA into piece meals and inoperable. 

Official Documents:

Decision: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Supreme Court Oral Argument Audio

Supreme Court Oral Argument Transcript

Merit and Amicus Briefs at ABA

Some other interesting cases of the 2013 term of the Supreme Court:

NLRB v. Noel Canning (Separation of Powers)

Riley v. California (Search and Seizure, Privacy)

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Comm’n (Campaign Contribution)


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  • L. Y.

    Hobby Lobby was one of the most watched case and decision of the 2013 term of SCOTUS. However, it by no means is the only one. We are having a repeat of the session next Saturday, August 16th (sorry for the short notice). In this session, we will discuss at least one other major case of the term. All are welcome to join and nominate one case of your interest. I will then select one with the most interest to prioritize.

    August 8, 2014

  • Phil H.

    I learned a lot about the Hobby Lobby case but not much about the SC' 2013 term as a whole. The current court has revealed some interesting points of conflict that I'd like to discuss further.

    1 · July 13, 2014

    • L. Y.

      Phil, thank you for coming. My initial intent was to discuss some other major cases of the term as well. I hope we get another chance to explore them, the 2013 term as a whole, and perhaps the Roberts' Court in the form of another discussion. Regardless of form, I'm always up for discussions about SCOTUS.

      July 14, 2014

    • L. Y.

      Phil, I am having a repeat on Saturday August 16. In this session, I would prioritize at least one other major case of the term. since you had expressed the desire to go beyond Hobby Lobby, I encourage you to attend and nominate a case.

      August 8, 2014

  • Adam H.

    Great discussion! First event for me and it was a lot of fun. Looking forward to the next one!

    1 · July 13, 2014

    • L. Y.

      Adam, thank you so much for coming. I was concerned, prior to the session, perhaps very erroneously, that it may turn into one of pure condemnation of the decision. I was fully prepared to play a devil's advocate in that case. However, as a contrarian, hard as I may try, I could never had expressed the views with the same dynamism and the genuineness of a true believer as you did. So, thank you again for participating. Hope you become a regular.

      July 14, 2014

    • Adam H.

      Thanks for the kind words. I thought you did a great job moderating in a fair manner. I will definitely attend future events.

      July 14, 2014

  • L. Y.

    Many thanks to all those who attended today's session. Your active participation from different perspectives made my first time leading a discussion a proverbial breeze. I am particularly glad about the civility we demonstrated towards each other on such a potentially contentious topic. Meanwhile, I do hope you felt you were able to speak your mind without any hindrance. Brian, thank you for bring the Oyez project (www.oyez.org) to everyone's attention. I have considered it a great resource for following SCOTUS. It provides audio recordings going back a great many terms. For examples, you can still hear the oral argument and the re-argument on Roe v. Wade there.

    July 14, 2014

  • Andrea

    Really interesting conversation. Everyone was respectful of other opinions and had important contributions. Great job hosting, L.Y.!

    1 · July 13, 2014

    • L. Y.

      Andrea, thank you so much for bringing the experience from insurers to the table. It certainly helped keep our our lay men's/women's discussion about the opinions grounded on the particular cases in front of us. RBG's stinging dissent may have helped shaping the narrowness of the majority opinion. Perhaps it also will serve as a constant reminder to Justice Kennedy for what he had not signed up in this case.

      1 · July 14, 2014

  • Michael B.

    Thought this Washington Post article on Scalia's criticism in 1993 of Religious Freedom Restoration Act is interesting. In essence his objection to the act is that it mandates decisions like this one - that anyone can get out of any civic obligation as long as they claim to have a religious objection to it. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/07/11/democrats-are-not-doing-enough-to-respond-to-hobby-lobby/

    1 · July 12, 2014

    • L. Y.

      Michael, thank you for providing this link. It definitely provided some more context to a previous round of volleying between the Supreme Court and the Congress.

      July 14, 2014

  • L. Y.

    I encourage everyone interested to watch professor Tribe's interview with the National Constitution Center days before the Supreme Court issued the decision. Even though professor Tribe made no comments about the Hobby Lobby case, his comments on the campaign finance cases does provide some different perspective on another very contentious issue. Similar approach might have prevailed in the Hobby Lobby case.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzmmBZ7i4BQ

    July 11, 2014

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