Transcript: Remarks by Attorney Paul Clement on Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius
Partial transcript of remarks by Paul Clement, attorney who argued on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, on Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. The press briefing was held after the Supreme Court oral arguments on March 25, 2014:
We’re obviously gratified that the court, you know, heard these cases, accepted both of them. We think it was important for them to understand the religious objections of both the Greens in the Hobby Lobby case and the Hahns in the Conestoga case.
We think that the court obviously took these cases very seriously, took them under consideration.
We do think that there are real concerns when the government comes in and takes a position that even a Kosher deli that was told that it would have to be open on a Saturday that they would have no basis to even to get into court and make that claim. That is a very, very difficult argument to sustain.
The nature of their argument would also say that a for-profit medical clinic would have no ability to raise a conscience objection and only if Congress provides a conscience objection would they be in a position to do that.
So those were the arguments that were presented to the court today. Obviously, we covered a great deal of territory. If there are a couple of questions, I’d be happy to take them.
Well, I think the court really got to that issue by saying that there’s really no case on either side that says either that for-profit corporations definitely have religious exercise, and there’s no case that says they definitely don’t. But I think what the arguments explored is that the ramifications of saying that a for-profit corporation under no circumstances can even get into court to raise a free exercise claim is just untenable. Indeed at one point, the Solicitor General even seemed to concede that if it were a free exercise claim that discriminated against a religion, a corporation would have the basis to bring that claim. I don’t understand why if the corporation have the ability to vindicate that claim, they wouldn’t have the ability to vindicate the claims at issue here.
Well, the options that are provided for this statute – by the statute for a company like Hobby Lobby is the option to either pay a $475 million per year fine or to pay a $26 million per year fine or comply with the government’s mandate. And the point is not that any of these companies are asking for something, for some special treatment. The point is the Congress passed a statute RFRA…that provides every person in this country a right to be treated on the basis of their person and not on the basis of their religion, not to be discriminated on the basis of their religion. And if the government puts a substantial burden on a person’s religious exercise and they cannot support that with a compelling interest, then the person’s claim is supposed to be vindicated.
And the fundamental problem with the government’s program here is that an agency has provided this accommodation or this exemption for a subset of the employers protected by the mandate and a subset of the persons protected by RFRA. But when Congress passes a statute that affords protection to every person in the country, it’s not for an administrative agency to provide a protection only for a chosen few.
The only sense I have from the questions is the court took this case very serious, as it does every one of its cases. But we’re certainly gratified that we had the opportunity to present our case to the court. We certainly await eagerly their decision. Thank you very much.
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