By Mike Lillis - 03/23/14 03:58 PM EDT
Just days before the Supreme Court takes up a challenge to ObamaCare's birth control mandate, House lawmakers sparred over the implications of the case for the law, the country and Americans' constitutional rights.
"Do we really want a corporation to be able to have its own religious views and impose them on its employees?" Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) asked in an interview on ABC's "This Week" program.
"This is about the free exercise of religious beliefs in your business," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) countered moments later.
At issue is a provision of the Democrats' 2010 healthcare reform law requiring larger, for-profit employers to cover their workers' preventative care services – a category the Obama administration says must include contraception.
That decision sparked an immediate outcry from Republicans and some Democrats, religious groups and businesses, which contend the provision violates the freedoms of employers opposed to certain forms of contraception based on their religious beliefs.
The Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned retail chain based in Oklahoma, is among the critics, and its lawsuit against the requirement has climbed to the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments beginning Tuesday.
Cole and other Hobby Lobby supporters say the company should have the right not to offer employees certain forms of birth control, just as it has the right not to open its doors on Sundays.
"This is a privately held corporation … and in this case I think they have got a very strong argument," Cole said. "They won at the district level. I think they'll win the Supreme Court."
Ellison and other supporters of the mandate say it does nothing to violate religious freedoms because employers are under no obligation to use the forms of birth control they oppose.
Ellison warned Sunday that a win for the Hobby Lobby would empower corporations at the expense of their employees' freedom and well-being.
"What would that mean for the separation of church and state, for individual liberty? What would it mean about corporate personhood?" Ellison asked. "This is scary territory."
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case before July.