Politics: A former anti-abortion leader says he was told the decision of the landmark 2014 Hobby Lobby contraception case weeks before the Supreme Court ruling was formally announced: NYT

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The Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky © AP Photo/Patrick Semansky The Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
  • An anti-abortion leader said he was told of the Supreme Court's 2014 Hobby Lobby ruling in advance, per The New York Times.
  • Rob Schenck suggested that two donors were told the outcome at a dinner with Justice Samuel Alito.
  • Alito has denied the allegations, which come after the leak of the Dobbs draft opinion in June.

A former prominent anti-abortion leader told Supreme Court Justice John Roberts that he was informed of the outcome of the 2014 Hobby Lobby contraception case weeks before the decision was disclosed to the public, according to The New York Times.

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In a letter sent to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts this past July, the Rev. Rob Schenck told the jurist that he was made aware of the decision before the official announcement, suggesting an extraordinary breach of judicial norms. It appears similar to the leak of the draft opinion of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case in May.  The court's final ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, came the next month.

In the 2014 Hobby Lobby contraception case the justices — in a 5-4 decision — ruled that mandating family-owned corporations to pay the cost of insurance for contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act infringed on religious freedoms. According to records obtained by The Times, Schenck used his knowledge of the decision to map out a public relations offensive.

Schenck also said that shortly before the decision was announced, he told Hobby Lobby president Steve Green about what had been disclosed to him regarding the case.

According to Schenck, the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case was only known to a very small contingent of individuals.

The Dobbs and Hobby Lobby decisions were both major victories for conservative politicians and activists, with Associate Justice Samuel Alito leading the charge in writing the majority opinions in both cases.

However, the leak of the Dobbs decision, which was first reported by Politico, was met with a furious response across the country. Some conservatives celebrated the court's signaling to overturn Roe but also sharply criticized the leak. Pro-choice activists rallied against the move and animated voters in the midterm elections as the issue returned to individual states to regulate.

In the letter to Roberts, Schenck spoke of the process in which the revelation about the Hobby Lobby case played out.

"Back in June 2014, when so many awaited the Court's opinion in Burwell V. Hobby Lobby, I was informed by a donor to the Capitol Hill-based non-profit organization I led that she and her husband would be dining at the home of Justice and Mrs. Alito. She suggested that in their table conversation, she might be able to learn the status of the case, something she knew I had an interest in knowing," he wrote.

"I received a follow-up message from her notifying me she had indeed obtained the information during that visit. We spoke on the phone, and she detailed the revelation," he went on to say. "As I recall, we talked about the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, and how they, too, would be interested in this information."

Associate Justice Samuel Alito sits during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on April 23, 2021. Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images © Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images Associate Justice Samuel Alito sits during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on April 23, 2021. Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Schenck has created an explosive situation where a religious official who had spent years cultivating relationships among anti-abortion leaders has now revealed a damning allegation, with a sitting justice brushing aside any knowledge of the charge and the high court still unsure about who leaked the Dobbs abortion draft this year.

'If you want some interesting news please call'

The Times, after analyzing emails and conversations, said that they found statements that "strongly suggested" Schenck had knowledge of the ruling and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision weeks before the decision reached the news.

Schenck told The Times that after sending the letter, which he said he felt could aid the investigation launched by Roberts regarding the leak of the Dobbs draft opinion, he has yet to receive a response.

The New York Times reviewed a June 2014 email from Schenck donor Gayle Wright — who had dined alongside her spouse with Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann — where she reached out to the minister informing him that she had "interesting news" to share.

"Rob, if you want some interesting news please call. No emails," Wright wrote, per the Times report.

Schenck told The Times that Wright let him know the high court's decision would be "favorable" to Hobby Lobby, the national arts and crafts retail company.

And later in June, the court took that exact route, with a majority of justices agreeing that requiring closely-held corporations to fund contraceptives in employee insurance plans was a violation of religious freedoms.

Alito, in a statement to The Times, provided through the court's spokesperson, said that while he had a "casual and purely social relationship" with Wrights, he affirmed that the "allegation that the Wrights were told the outcome of the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, or the authorship of the opinion of the Court, by me or my wife, is completely false."

Gayle Wright told The Times that she didn't pass on any information about the Hobby Lobby decision in advance.

Hobby Lobby has not yet commented on The Times report.

And the Supreme Court did not elaborate further on anything related to Schenck's letter or its probe into the leak of the Dobbs draft, per the newspaper.

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