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GOP lawmakers back Hobby Lobby contraception suit

By Ashok Selvam
Posted: February 21, 2013 - 10:45 am ET

Eleven Republican lawmakers have signed an amicus brief (PDF) that challenges the Obama administration's contraception coverage mandate by arguing the policy violates religious freedom.

The brief, filed Tuesday with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, is part of a lawsuit filed by Hobby Lobby Stores, a chain of Christian-owned craft retailers based in Oklahoma. The store's owners argue that the mandate, which requires employers to provide insurance that covers contraception at no out-of-pocket cost to enrollees, violates their religious principles and is unconstitutional. Hobby Lobby's suit was filed against HHS and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“Congress has commanded equal treatment of all under a religion-protective rule,” the brief read. “Defendants may not pick and choose whose exercise of religion is protected and whose is not.”

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) signed the brief, as well as Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

The lawmakers are citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.

“Religious freedom is an issue our country was founded on, and it's not a Democrat or Republican issue,” Hatch said in a news release.

“Unfortunately, the Obama administration has time and again ignored calls to stop the implementation of a policy some organizations or businesses are morally opposed to.”

Catholic health providers made a similar argument when HHS unveiled its contraception mandate. Last May three Catholic health systems joined other Catholic groups in filing 12 federal lawsuits questioning the law, which went into effect earlier this year.

The Catholic Health Association declined comment on the brief. The CHA supported the ACA, but disagreed with the mandate as written and asked HHS to reconsider the policy. Last week, the CHA issued a statement on a revised mandate that once again expressed concerns over how the government defined a religious employer and what groups would be exempt from the mandate. They called the revisions “substantial progress,” but cautioned more work was needed.

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