Ready, set, go! Hobby Lobby at the Supremes

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Hobby Lobby gets its hearing before the Supreme Court this morning.

This is big, folks.

As the Los Angeles Times describes it:

WASHINGTON — A challenge to part of President Obama’s healthcare law that hits the Supreme Court on Tuesday could lead to one of the most significant religious freedom rulings in the high court’s history.

USA Today puts it even more dramatically:

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s health care law gets a return engagement at the Supreme Court (this week) in a case full of hot-button issues: religious freedom, corporate rights, federal regulation, abortion and contraception.

Put another way, it’s a case about God, money, power, sex — and Obamacare.

Nearly two years after the court’s 5-4 decision upheld the law and its controversial individual and employer mandates, the justices will consider a different requirement — that companies pay for their workers’ birth control.

In a Supreme Court term that has lacked the drama of last year’s gay marriage and civil rights cases or the prior term’s health care showdown, the so-called “contraception mandate” now commands center stage.

The New York Times characterizes the high stakes this way:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a case that pits religious liberty against women’s rights.

That issue is momentous enough. But it only begins to touch on the potential consequences of the court’s ruling in the case, notably for laws banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

The question directly before the justices is whether for-profit corporations must provide insurance coverage for contraception, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby, a chain of crafts stores, challenged the requirement, saying it conflicts with the company’s religious principles.

“If Hobby Lobby were to prevail, the consequences would extend far beyond the issue of contraception,” said Walter Dellinger, a former acting United States solicitor general who filed a brief urging the court to uphold the law.

Like Religion News Service did last week, The Wall Street Journal puts a face on the Green family — billionaire owners of Hobby Lobby — to explain the case:

OKLAHOMA CITY — David Green calls the chain of 560 Hobby Lobby arts-and-crafts stores he founded a religious business.

A 53-employee choir was belting out hymns one recent morning at the headquarters here. Stores close Sundays. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.’s true owner, Mr. Green says, is God.

That is why Mr. Green will find himself seated in the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday for a landmark religious-freedom case brought by his company.

“I have deeply held convictions,” he says “and I should not have to be required by the government to violate my conscience.”

Mr. Green says closely held Hobby Lobby can’t comply with Affordable Care Act regulations that require it to offer certain contraceptives in employee health plans.

The Obama administration disagrees. In court papers, the federal government says for-profit companies like family owned Hobby Lobby aren’t entitled to religious-freedom protections. The Green family’s religious beliefs are sincere, it says, but don’t trump the law.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court hearing will be the second time the health law will be scrutinized by the justices. At issue is whether for-profit companies such as Hobby Lobby are entitled to the same religious protections as people or churches.

If you’re wondering how a former GetReligionista might approach the story, here’s Mark A. Kellner’s lede at the Deseret News National Edition:

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Should CNN editor accept religious liberty award?

A Religion Dispatches blog post this week noted that CNN Godbeat pro Eric Marrapodi will receive the first annual Vine & Fig Tree Award for excellence in reporting on religious liberty issues.

The post questioned whether Marrapodi (an often-praised journalist here at GetReligion) should accept the award from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:

According to Time Warner’s Standards of Business Conduct (CNN is a Time Warner subsidiary), employees are to avoid conflicts of interest. While they do not address the particulars of journalists being honored by an advocacy group, The New York Times’ “Policy on Ethics in Journalism,” for example, offers clear guidelines for such circumstances: “Staff members may not enter local, national or international competitions sponsored by individuals or groups who have a direct interest in the tenor of our coverage.”

Any number of advocacy groups, of course, present journalism awards, from the Amy Foundation to the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association.

The question of whether Marrapodi should accept the award sparked some Twitter responses — some humorous, some serious — from fellow religion writers.

Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post said:

It depends, does he get a huge amount of money? #kidding

That actually is a good question. Based on my reading of the award news release, I don’t see that the honor carries a cash prize.

Bob Smietana of (for a little while longer, anyway) The Tennessean chimed in:

Becket is not primarily an anti gay rights group as that report claims

Former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Religion News Service said:

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