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Tenth Circuit hears Hobby Lobby appeal of health care ruling

Hobby Lobby, Inc. [corporate website] requested an exemption from the mandate to provide employees with coverage for contraceptives under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder] in an en banc hearing before the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] on Thursday. The Green family, founders of Hobby Lobby and its sister company Mardel, contend [AP report] that businesses, not just the currently exempted religious groups, should be excepted from that part of the health law if it violates the business-owners' religious beliefs. The US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma [official website], from which the Green family appealed, ruled [opinion, PDF] that for-profit businesses are not covered by the exemption for religious organizations, which currently applies to churches themselves, but not to affiliated nonprofit corporations, like hospitals, which do not rely primarily on members of the faith as employees.

Thursday's en banc hearing is the most recent development in the challenge by the Green family in its fight against the PPACA. In February a group of nine senators and two representatives joined to file an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby and Mardel. Last December the US Supreme Court [official website] said it would not intervene [JURIST report] by issuing an injunction while an appeal was still pending with the Tenth Circuit, to which the Greens have responded that they will not comply [JURIST report] with the mandate even without a protective injunction. Justice Sonia Sotomayor ruled that the Oklahoma City family's religiously oriented business did not meet the requirements to allow an injunction against the PPACA's mandate. The opinion stated that the Hobby Lobby family did not meet the standard of showing that they have an "indisputably clear" legal right to an injunction while appeal is pending.

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