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Obamacare contraceptives impose religious burden, US appeals court rules (+video)

The Tenth Circuit ruling in a case brought by the devout Christian owners of hobby and book stores marks the first time an appeals court has examined Obamacare's contraceptives policy.

By Staff writer / June 27, 2013

Customers walk toward a Hobby Lobby store in Denver. The owners of Hobby Lobby stores are challenging a federal mandate requiring them to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after birth control pill. The Oklahoma-based arts and crafts chain says the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its owners.

Ed Andrieski/AP/File

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Washington

Requiring that certain contraceptives be made available under the mandated health-care coverage of Obamacare would substantially burden the religious rights of a chain of hobby stores and Christian bookstores and their devout Christian owners, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

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Hobby Lobby case challenges the mandated federal health-care law, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). (May 24)

The court ruled that the companies, Hobby Lobby Stores and Mardel, Inc., and its owners, the Green family, have a valid claim in their case under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

But a majority of judges on the court declined to approve an injunction that would allow the company an exemption from paying for contraceptive methods they find religiously offensive.

Instead, the court sent that issue back to a federal judge to determine whether an injunction should be issued to protect the religious rights of the company and its owners.

The company is facing a July 1 deadline to comply.

“We hold that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under RFRA, have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm,” Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich wrote for the court.

“But we remand the case to the district court for further proceedings on two of the remaining factors governing the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction,” he said.

The 5-to-3 decision by the Tenth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver marks the first time an appeals court has examined the issue.

The case is one of 60 that have been filed by individuals, companies, and organizations across the country complaining that the president’s health-care mandate will force them to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

They charge that the mandate will force them to pay for certain types of offensive contraceptives, including the so-called morning-after pill that they consider an abortifacient.  

Of the 20 contraceptive methods required to be offered under Obamacare, the company and its owners objected to four – two types of IUDs and the emergency morning-after pills known as Plan B and Ella.

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