On Monday, attorneys for both the Obama administration and the retail craft giant Hobby Lobby filed briefs requesting the Supreme Court grant review of the Hobby Lobby case, significantly increasing the odds the Roberts Court will agree to take the case and decide whether corporations have religious exercise rights.
There are currently three petitions for review before the Supreme Court from the flood of litigation launched in response to the contraception benefit in Obamacare: the Hobby Lobby decision from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Conestoga Wood Specialities case from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Autocam case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The central question the Supreme Court will be considering if it takes up the challenge to the mandate is whether secular, for-profit businesses can “exercise” religious rights. According to the Tenth Circuit in Hobby Lobby, they can. But the Third Circuit in Conestoga disagreed and held they can’t. That split in the federal circuits adds to the likelihood the Supreme Court will grant review.
The Obama administration’s petition for review of the Hobby Lobby case raises only the issue of for-profit religious exercise rights in the context of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFPA), and not the broader claim that such corporate religious rights exist under the First Amendment. That means the issue before the Court would arguably to confined to just an analysis of the RFRA claim. But until the Supreme Court acts and either grants or denies review, even that issue is up for grabs.
Of the three, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are the furthest along in the filing and scheduling process, which, as SCOTUSblog reports, means they could be ready for the Court to consider as early as next month. The petition in the Autocam case was just filed last week.