US top court weighs religious rights over birth control

US top court weighs religious rights over birth control

WASHINGTON - Hobby Lobby's 556 arts and crafts stores across the United States are closed on Sundays, and billionaire CEO David Green says the chain's true owner is God.

His religious beliefs put him at odds with health care laws demanding the company provide contraceptive options in its employee health plans. And so US Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a high-stakes religious freedom case brought by Green's firm.

Green says his company, which follows "biblical principles" and thanks "God's grace and provision" for its success, cannot comply with the Affordable Care Act rules brought about by President Barack Obama's sweeping health care overhaul.

Green is defending his company's objections to requirements it provide specific emergency contraceptives and intrauterine devices to its 28,000 employees.

"These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families," Green has said.

"We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate."

The so-called Obamacare law has been the subject of fierce criticism since its shaky introduction in October, and companies have filed dozens of lawsuits in federal courts challenging the law's birth control coverage.

Green's religious freedom case, which marks the second time the Supreme Court is examining a challenge to the health law, could have broad implications for other companies claiming they are entitled to the same religious protections as churches or people.

Although Hobby Lobby does cover most types of contraception in its employee health plan, it equates certain emergency contraceptives - required under Obama's health care law, such as the morning-after pill - with abortion .

Hobby Lobby's Christian education business Mardel is also part of the suit, which is being heard alongside another from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania cabinetmaker whose owners say they run the company based on their Mennonite Christian values.

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