March 25 (Bloomberg) — A divided U.S. Supreme Court debated whether companies can assert the same religious rights as individuals, hearing arguments in an ideological clash over Obamacare and rules promoting contraceptive coverage.

The 90-minute session marked the Supreme Court's first look at the health law since the justices upheld its core provisions in 2012. At issue is whether two family-owned companies are entitled to a religious exemption from the requirement that employers cover birth control as part of worker-insurance plans.

Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. are asking the court to give for-profit corporations religious freedoms, with potentially sweeping rights to opt out of laws they say are immoral. A victory for the companies would put a dent in a health-care law that remains under siege on multiple fronts four years after it was passed.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the court's deciding vote, questioned whether the religious views of employers could trump the rights of employees to receive contraceptive coverage.

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