Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court released audio files from the March 25 arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The case asks whether Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate violates the religious freedom of for-profit employers such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, who do not cover abortifacient drugs in employee health insurance plans. Here are some of the statements made and questions asked by justices as they listened to both sides:
- “Is your claim limited to sensitive materials like contraceptives or does it include items like blood transfusion, vaccines? For some religions, products made of pork? Is any claim under your theory that has a religious basis, could an employer preclude the use of those items as well?”—Justice Sonia Sotomayor to attorney Paul Clement, who represents Hobby Lobby.
- “How does a corporation exercise religion? I mean, I know how it speaks and we have, according to our jurisprudence, 200 years of corporations speaking in its own interests. But where are the cases that show that a corporation exercises religion?”—Sotomayor
- “There are quite a number of medical treatments that different religious groups object to. So one religious group could opt out of this and another religious group could opt out of that and everything would be piecemeal and nothing would be uniform.”—Justice Elena Kagan
- “That’s the most dangerous piece. That’s the one we’ve resisted in all our exercise jurisprudence, to measure the depth of someone’s religious beliefs.” —Sotomayor, responding to Clement’s argument that the court can tell the difference between sincere and insincere religious beliefs.
- “Are there ways of accommodating the interests of the women who may want these particular drugs or devices without imposing a substantial burden on the employer who has the religious objection to it?”—Justice Samuel Alito
- “There is not a single case which says that a for-profit enterprise cannot make a freedom of religion claim, is there?”—Justice Samuel Alito to Solicitor General Donald Verilli, who confirmed there is no such case.
- “Under your view, a profit corporation could be forced in principle, there are some statutes on the books now which would prevent it, but could be forced in principle to pay for abortions.” —Justice Anthony Kennedy to Verilli.
- “But that wasn’t the basis for denying the claim. The basis was that the government has to run a uniform system that applies to everybody. … And you can’t argue that here because the government has made a lot of exemptions.” —Scalia to Verilli.
- “Isn’t that really a question of theology or moral philosophy, which has been debated by many scholars and adherents to many religions? A does something that B thinks is immoral. How close a connection does there have to be between what B does … to A in order for B to be required to refrain from doing that action? … It is a religious question and it’s a moral question. And you want us to provide a definitive secular answer to it?” — Alito to Verilli.
Listen to more audio from Supreme Court justices in the Hobby Lobby case on The World and Everything in It: