DOJ: Business Owners Have No Religious Freedom Rights

DOJ: Business Owners Have No Religious Freedom Rights

The Department of Justice has responded to a lawsuit brought against the Obama administration by Hobby Lobby Stores, a Christian-owned, self-insured business that has argued that ObamaCare’s HHS mandate forces it “to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties, and lawsuits.”

In its brief, the DOJ responds that businesspersons have no constitutional rights to freedom of religion. From the brief:

Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion. Even if a secular entity could exercise religion within the meaning of [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] RFRA, the preventive services coverage regulations still do not substantially burden the company’s or its owners’ exercise of religion for an independent reason: any burden caused by the regulations is simply too attenuated to qualify as a substantial burden.

Notice that the administration goes beyond its argument that businesses have no religious freedom rights. The DOJ says that even if a business did have rights to religious freedom, the HHS mandate is not really a “substantial” ethical dilemma, and, in a sense, the government can decide what is a “substantial burden” and what is not.

In the brief’s introduction, DOJ again uses the left’s code words for abortion and contraception, i.e., “women’s preventive health services,” that have been usurped from the field of medicine for political purposes:

Plaintiffs ask this Court to preliminarily enjoin, as to plaintiffs, regulations that are intended to help ensure that women have access to health coverage, without cost-sharing, for certain preventive services that medical experts have deemed necessary for women’s health and well-being.

Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the non-profit, public interest law firm that represents Hobby Lobby, said, “The Green family is asking to continue to live their faith by not paying for drugs that might cause abortions.” Windham charged that the DOJ is claiming “that the Greens must comply- and pay for abortion-causing drugs- or pay millions of dollars in fines.”

Windham observes that the Obama administration has already exempted others from health plans, yet it is forcing a family-owned business to violate the tenets of that family’s faith.

“By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow,” said David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby Stores. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”

The company, which boasts more than 13,000 full-time employees who are eligible for health insurance coverage, states that if it fails to comply with the mandate, beginning January 1, 2013, it will incur fines of up to $1.3 million per day.

A hearing is set for November 1st in US District Court in Oklahoma.