Posted: Tue, March 25 2014 at 9:43 AM, Updated: Tue, March 25 2014 at 1:24 PM
Wash. D.C. -- (NBC News) A controversial mix of politics and religion was the focus of arguments inside the Supreme Court Tuesday.
Justices are considering whether corporations have the same rights to religious freedom as individuals, and if so, does that mean they do not have to provide health coverage for certain forms of contraception mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
"We believe that Americans don't lose their religious freedom when they open a family business," Hobby Lobby's Barbara Green said outside the court.
Lawyers for the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores, owned by evangelical Christians, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, owned by a Mennonite family, told justices that requiring companies to provide certain types of contraceptives violates the owners' Christian faith.
"We never thought we'd see a day when the government would tell our family we could no longer run our business in a way that affirmed the sanctity of human life," Conestoga CEO Anthony Hahn said.
The court's liberal justices seemed to defend the so-called contraception mandate.
Justice Elena Kagan predicted that if the court grants the exemption "you would see religious objectors coming out of the woodwork" to challenge everything from social security to immunizations.
"I believe this court understood women have the right to make their own decisions about their health care and their birth control, and it's not their bosses decision," says Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued freedom of religion applies to citizens, not corporations.
Women's rights activists rallied outside the Supreme Court Tuesday, begging justices to uphold the Obamacare requirement that private businesses offer contraceptive care.
Also protesting were faith groups who say the law violates their rights to religious freedom.
The owners of two businesses, a woodworking company and craft supply retailer Hobby Lobby, are challenging the law, which they say forces them to violate their values or face steep penalties.
During arguments Justice Elena Kagan worried that if the court sides with the challengers "you would see religious objectors come out of the wood work" and Justice Anthony Kennedy asked about the "rights of female employees."
Churches and religious non-profits have already been given exemptions.
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