The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in the Hobby Lobby HHS mandate case.

After oral arguments had concluded, a member of Hobby Lobby’s counsel told the Daily Caller, “the general tenor of the questions [from the justices] were in our favor.”

Life News reported a similar atmosphere.

The questions from members of the Supreme Court and the tenor of the oral arguments today in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases against the HHS mandate give observers reason to hope the high court will overturn the controversial Obamacare provision.

In court today former United States Solicitor General Paul Clement argued on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, two family businesses whose cases were consolidated before the court. Clement argued that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that nothing in the law excludes these family businesses and their owners from religious freedom protections.

“No one should be forced to give up their constitutionally protected civil rights just to open a family business,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby. “This case demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the government’s efforts to strip this family business of its religious rights represent a gross violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.”

While much of the popular debate centered on Hobby Lobby’s first amendment rights, the vast majority of legal inquiry yesterday focused on the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Freedom of religion, it has been noted, is the first freedom of the first phrase of the first amendment. This is to say that it’s a big deal, and certainly not an afterthought. But based on what Joshua Hawley, an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri and a counsel to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which represents Hobby Lobby), told me, the decision appears more likely to hinge on an interpretation of a statute than on Constitutional law.

“There was virtually no discussion of the First Amendment claim,” Hawley said. “It was all based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

“The Greens [Hobby Lobby’s owners] only have an objection to 4 out of the 20 contraceptives that are mandated,” Hawley says. “Almost nobody knows that, but it’s very important to the case. They are providing for 16 out of the 20. It’s just the abortion-inducing drugs or devices that they object to.”

As the Daily Caller notes,  it’s not easy — or necessarily wise — to predict how the Justices will rule based on their line of questioning during oral argument.

Recall CNN legal analyst Jeffery Toobin’s musings following the Obamacare oral argument phase.

“This was a train wreck for the Obama administration. This law looks like it’s going to be struck down,” Toobin said on CNN. “All of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong.”

Take every prediction with a grain of salt, especially those made in response to oral arguments.

The Supreme Court is slated to rule on the case before the term concludes this June.


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