- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Eleven Republican members of Congress are challenging the contraception insurance mandate in President Obama’s health care law by formally backing Hobby Lobby, the Oklahoma-based chain of crafts stores whose owners say they must choose between their Christian beliefs and insuring women’s birth control and other preventative services.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch led the group of nine senators and two House members in filing a friend-of-the-court brief on the company’s behalf in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Religious freedom is an issue our country was founded on, and it’s not a Democrat or Republican issue,” Mr. Hatch said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the Obama administration has time and again ignored calls to stop the implementation of a policy some organizations or businesses are morally opposed to.”

Houses of worship are exempt from the mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires most employers to insure contraception. Nonprofits with religious affiliations are mulling an “accommodation” offered by the Department of Health and Human Services Feb. 1 that would separate their health plans from contraception coverage, but even under the latest offer, for-profit entities such as Hobby Lobby would not be granted similar flexibility.

The mandate has led to a slew of lawsuits from religious universities and hospitals and from more than a dozen corporations, resulting in a mix of rulings from the circuit courts and potential clash before the Supreme Court.

Hobby Lobby is among the few corporations that have not been granted temporary relief by the courts.

Federal lawmakers who signed onto the brief say the Obama administration is violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that passed with broad bipartisan support in 1993 and signed by President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Hatch and the other legislators had a hand in passing the law, which “sought to curb government-imposed infringements on religious liberty,” according to their brief announced Wednesday.

Mr. Hatch was joined by Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Reps. Lamar Smith of Texas and Frank Wolf of Virginia also joined the brief.

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