Catholic University law school Professor Mark Rienzi is part of a legal team that this week filed a brief at the Supreme Court on behalf of Hobby Lobby Stores, a family-owned, privately held national retail chain. The lawyers are urging the high court to review a recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that once again delves into the contentious issue of whether government health care mandates may force employers to violate their religious beliefs.
Rienzi’s involvement in the case comes through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where he is senior counsel.
Last year, on the grounds of religious objection, Hobby Lobby sued the federal government over the Health and Human Services Department mandate that the company's owners had to provide the contraceptive "morning-after" Plan B and "week-after" Ella One pills as part of health benefits available to its employees.
The company lost the first round of its legal challenge, but last summer the Tenth Circuit Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, granting it an exemption from the federal directives.
Last month, the federal government filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, Hobby Lobby and its legal team are in the unusual position of agreeing with the government in urging certiorari review of a decision that can already be considered a victory for the company.
Although Hobby Lobby won at the Tenth Circuit, the company and the government share a belief that the case raises very important issues of religious freedom law, and that it makes sense for the Supreme Court to answer those questions now.
Former United States Solicitor General Paul Clement has joined Rienzi and the Becket Fund legal team as co-counsel for Hobby Lobby.
The case is Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al, v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
A more complete news account may be found here.