Hobby Lobby turns to Supreme Court for mandate relief

By Michelle Bauman

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A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

Arts and crafts giant Hobby Lobby will appeal to the nation’s highest court after an appeals court ruled the federal contraception mandate does not impose a “substantial burden” on the owners’ religious freedom.

“The Green family is disappointed with this ruling,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is handling the case.

He explained that the Christian family that owns and operates Hobby Lobby must now “seek relief from the United States Supreme Court.”

“The Greens will continue to make their case on appeal that this unconstitutional mandate infringes their right to earn a living while remaining true to their faith,” Duncan said.

On Dec. 20, an appeals court denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction to block the federal contraception mandate from being enforced against them while their case moves forward in the court.

The mandate requires employers to offer health insurance covering sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause early abortions. As Christians, the Greens are morally opposed to funding any type of abortion, including those caused by “morning after” and “week after” pills.

In its decision, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the mandate did not impose a “substantial burden” on the Greens’ religious freedom because it only forces them to fund “someone else’s participation” in an activity that their religion condemns.

Started in a garage in Oklahoma City in 1972, Hobby Lobby now has more than 500 stores in 41 states. Its owners, the Greens, have said that they seek to serve God through all of their endeavors, including their business decisions.

The company donates considerable amounts to charity, maintains a minimum wage that is much higher than the federal requirement and closes all of its stores on Sundays, sacrificing profit to allow its employees to rest and worship with their families.

A lower court ruled last month that as a “secular, for-profit” corporation, Hobby Lobby does not have a constitutional right to freedom of religion, even if its owners see its management as part of their call to Christian stewardship.

Forty-two separate lawsuits challenging the mandate have been filed on behalf of religious schools, hospitals and charities, for-profit businesses and individual states. Rulings in the cases have been split. Among for-profit businesses, four have been granted preliminary injunctions and two have been denied them.

Hobby Lobby is the largest business to file a lawsuit challenging the mandate. If it is not granted relief from the regulation, it will be forced to pay $1.3 million per day in fines for refusing to comply with the objectionable provision.

The company will now turn to the Supreme Court to ask for an injunction protecting its right to religious freedom.

“It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” said David Green, founder and CEO of the company. “Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

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