Hobby Lobby wins HHS Mandate case
The Christian owners of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., an Oklahoma-based arts and crafts chain with a location at 945 Bald Hill Road, are rejoicing because a federal judge in Oklahoma City recently granted the company a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug Mandate.
U.S. District Court Judge Joe Heaton issued the ruling July 19 and gave the federal government until Oct. 1 to notify the court of an appeal with a cert petition due Sept. 25. He stated that Hobby Lobby is not liable to comply with the federal health care law, which mandates that employers provide coverage of abortifacient contraceptives, such as the morning-after pill, or Plan B, in health insurance plans.
The ruling comes nearly a month after the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 5-3 that Hobby Lobby can exercise religion under the First Amendment and is likely to win its case against the mandate.
“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” Kyle Duncan, general counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby, said in a recent press release. Duncan argued before the 10th Circuit July 19.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. They are representing several other non-profits opposing the mandate; Hobby Lobby is the sole for-profit company they represent.
The release further noted that the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”
During a phone interview yesterday, Lori Windham, senior council for The Becket Fund, said the team of attorneys representing Hobby Lobby argued that providing employees with these types of contraceptive coverage violated Hobby Lobby’s religious freedom. They referred to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which protects religious freedoms from being hindered by the federal government.
“It’s a very important act,” said Windham, noting that there are 63 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. “It says that if there’s a law that substantially burdens your religious exercise, then the government is going to have to work very hard to justify that law, or else give you an accommodation or exemption. That is what we went to the 10th Circuit about, and they ruled that Hobby Lobby was likely to succeed in its challenge under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They should be entitled to some sort of accommodation or exemption.”
Hobby Lobby originally went into District Court in September, asking for the injunction. The motion was denied, but Hobby Lobby appealed it to the 10th Circuit. They received a new ruling in June before getting the preliminary injunction last week.
The lawsuit, said Windham, shows that religious Americans don’t give up their faith just because they go into business.
“This is a family who is dedicated to running their company in a way that glorifies God, and in a way that is true to their faith in all that they do,” she said. “It is very clear in all that they do. We’re all very happy that they can continue to run their business according to Christian principles.”
The family-owned company, which was founded by CEO David Green in 1972, only objected to covering contraceptives that interfere with the implantation of an embryo. They provide 16 out of 20 kinds of preventative contraceptives covered by the HHS mandate, and will continue to cover those for employees.
Windham said had the judge not ruled in their favor, Hobby Lobby would still have opposed the HHS mandate, resulting in significant fines. They would have been responsible for paying $1.3 million daily in fees.
“They were glad to see that the courts protected their religious freedom and they can continue to operate the same way they’ve been operating while their case proceeds,” Windham said. “We think that this ruling is a great victory for the Green’s and for religious business centers across the nation.”
She also said store policies reflect their Christian faith. They are closed on Sundays, open only 66 hours per week to allow employees more time with their families.
A quick stroll through any of their 550-plus locations throughout the country reveals their commitment to their beliefs, Windham said. They play Christian music and hymns, feature religious merchandise and allow no risqué greeting cards or alcohol-consumption paraphernalia in their stores.
“It’s very clear when you’re shopping with Hobby Lobby that it’s a store that’s been influenced by religious beliefs,” she said.