Federal Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Hobby Lobby
A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Hobby Lobby, and its sister company, Mardel bookstores should be allowed to seek exception from the part of the ObamaCare mandate that violates their religious beliefs.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said the companies can proceed with their lawsuit and can probably win.
Hobby Lobby was facing fines of up to $475 million for failing to comply with the law, or pay $26 million to the government if it dropped its health care plan altogether.
The judges indicated that the Oklahoma court should have granted the companies an injunction with such serious financial penalties on the line.
The judges unanimously sent the case back to a lower court in Oklahoma, which had rejected the companies' request for an injunction to prevent full enforcement of the new law.
"Hobby Lobby and Mardel have drawn a line at providing coverage for drugs or devices they consider to induce abortions, and it is not for us to question whether the line is reasonable," the judges wrote. "The question here is not whether the reasonable observer would consider the plaintiffs complicit in an immoral act, but rather how the plaintiffs themselves measure their degree of complicity."
Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., Mardel Inc. and their owners, the Green family, argue for-profit businesses — not just religious groups — should be allowed to seek an exception if the law violates their religious beliefs. The owners approve of most forms of artificial birth control, but not those that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg — such as an IUD or the morning-after pill.
This is a huge victory for religious freedom as many other lesser known, Catholic affiliated businesses in several states have also challenged the contraception mandate.
"A religious individual may enter the for-profit realm intending to demonstrate to the marketplace that a corporation can succeed financially while adhering to religious values. As a court, we do not see how we can distinguish this form of evangelism from any other," the court wrote.
The appeals court slapped down the DOJ's argument that allowing for-profit corporations to exempt themselves from regulations that violate their religious beliefs was tantamount to allowing the business to force its religious beliefs on employees.
The 10th Circuit cited a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that for-profit corporations have rights to political expression.
"We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation's political expression but not its religious expression," said the judges.
Judge Harris Hartz wrote, "no one suggests that organizations, in contrast to their members, have souls. But it does not follow that people must sacrifice their souls to engage in group activities through an organization."
Emily Hardman, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, called the ruling a "resounding victory for religious freedom."
But Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the judges were wrong.
"This isn't religious freedom; it's the worst kind of religious oppression," executive director Barry Lynn said in a statement.
Back in November, the Green family, the owners of Hobby Lobby wrote an open letter laying out their case, which you can read, here.
It didn't take HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius long to see the writing on the wall. She announced a finalized version of the contraception mandate in Obamacare on Friday, one day after the ruling showed that their regulation is probably a violation of religious liberties.
The Washington Examiner reported:
HHS said that the final rule includes an “accommodation” for non-profit religious institutions that oppose the use of contraception. “Under the accommodation these organizations will not have to contract, arrange, pay for or refer contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds, but such coverage is separately provided to women enrolled in their health plans at no cost,” HHS said.
So good of them to finally see it our way.
By the way -- Didn't that whole "Republican War on Women" thing last year have something to do Republicans objecting to the grotesque, unconstitutional overreach of the federal government that just got unanimously slapped down by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals?