Justice Kagan argued religious views might be used to violate other federal laws
March 27, 2014
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan told an attorney representing Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties the companies should pay a government penalty if they object on religious grounds to a mandatory birth control provision included in the Obamacare mandate. The provision includes coverage of abortion-inducing drugs.
Elena Kagan said there is “another choice nobody talks about, which is paying the tax, which is a lot less than a penalty and a lot less than — than the cost of health insurance at all?”
“Those employers could choose not to give health insurance and pay not that high a penalty – not that high a tax,” Sotomayor added.
Attorney Paul Clement told the Court the companies would face $500 million a year in penalties. Kagan disagreed.
“There’s one penalty that is if the employer continues to provide health insurance without this part of the coverage, but Hobby Lobby would choose not to provide health insurance at all,” she said. “And in that case Hobby Lobby would pay $2,000 per employee, which is less that Hobby Lobby probably pays to provide insurance to its employees,” she said.
“So there is a choice here. It’s not even a penalty by – in the language of the statute. It’s a payment or a tax. There’s a choice.”
Sotomayor argued others may object to certain medical procedures – blood transfusions, immunizations, medical products that include pork – on religious grounds.
Kagan said the reasoning used by Hobby Lobby may result in an employer objecting on religious grounds to a number of federal laws, including sex discrimination laws, minimum wage laws, family leave laws and child labor laws, and others.
The Court is divided on the case. Liberal members believe employees have a right to government-enforced free birth control, including abortion-inducing drugs, while conservative members argue the law violates religious liberty.
A decision on the law is expected by summer.