Hobby Lobby Appealing Decision Forcing Compliance with Obamacare Mandate

Hobby Lobby Appealing Decision Forcing Compliance with Obamacare Mandate

Hobby Lobby is appealing a decision by a U.S. District Court Judge that denied the business relief from an Obamacare mandate. The mandate will force them to cover abortion-inducing drugs like the “day-after” and the morning-after” pills that violate the religious beliefs of the owners. Hobby Lobby is a Christian-owned craft store business.

The company is appealing the ruling from a judge from U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The ruling states that the business could not be exempt from the mandate because it was “not a church or religious” group to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to LifeNews, the privately held retail chain has more than 500 stores in 41 states. It employs nearly 13,000 people. Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan covers these employees and their dependents. 

If Hobby Lobby’s owners (founder David Green and his family) do not violate their religious beliefs and fail to comply with the mandate, the company would face $1.3 million in fines on a daily basis. If the company drops health insurance for its employees, it will be forced to pay roughly $26 million a year in penalties.  

Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby, said these looming fines would potentially cripple the business.They have “asked the federal appeals court in Denver to issue an injunction against the mandate” because the Green family “needs relief before Jan. 1.”

“Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to make a living without forfeiting their religious beliefs,” Duncan said. 

The legal brief argues that since “the district court accepted that the Green family engages in a religious exercise by refusing to cover abortion-causing drugs in their self-funded health plan” there was “thus no question that the Green family engages in ‘religious exercise.'”

To date, federal courts have ruled against the Obama administration in three cases and prevented it from forcing business to comply with the Obamacare mandate, the most recent of which was when a court ruled that the Obama administration could not enforce its Obamacare mandate on a Bible publisher.  

In a previous conversation about the case, Duncan detailed his arguments against the Obama administration’s insistence that Hobby Lobby should not get an Obamacare waiver: 

The administration’s arguments in this case are shocking. Here’s what they are saying: once someone starts a “secular” business, he categorically loses any right to run that business in accordance with his conscience. The business owner simply leaves her First Amendment rights at home when she goes to work at the business she built. Kosher butchers around the country must be shocked to find that they now run “secular” businesses. On this view of the world, even a seller of Bibles is “secular.” Hobby Lobby’s affiliate, Mardel, sells Bibles and other Christian-themed material, but because it makes a profit the government has now declared it “secular.”

The administration’s position here — while astonishing — is actually consistent with its overall view of the place of religion in civil society. After all, this is the administration who argued in the Hosanna-Tabor case last year in the Supreme Court that the religion clauses of the First Amendment offered no special protection to a church’s right to choose its ministers — a position that the Court rejected 9-0. This is the administration which has taken to referring to “freedom of worship” instead of “freedom of religion” — suggesting that religious freedom consists in being free to engage in private rituals and prayers, but not in carrying your religious convictions into public life. And this is the administration who crafted a “religious employer” exemption to the HHS mandate so narrow that a Catholic charity does not qualify for conscience protection if it serves non-Catholic poor people.

As you point out, the administration is trying to justify its rigid stance against religious business owners by saying otherwise they would become a “law unto themselves,” and be able to do all sorts of nasty things to their employees — like force them to attend Bible studies, or fire them if they denied the divinity of Christ. Nonsense. Hobby Lobby isn’t arguing for the right to impose the Greens’ religion on employees, nor for the right to fire employees of different religions. There’s already a federal law that protects employees from religious discrimination and that’s a very good thing. This case is about something entirely different:  it’s about stopping the government from coercing religious business owners. The government wants to fine the Greens if they do not violate their own faith by handing out free abortion drugs, and now it’s saying they don’t even have the right to complain in court about it.