U.S. Supreme Court Accepts Hobby Lobby Case
"My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case," said David Green, Hobby Lobby's founder and CEO. "This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law."
In September, the Obama Administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, and on October 21 Hobby Lobby took the unusual step of agreeing with the government that the high court should hear the appeal concerning Hobby Lobby's failure to comply with the mandate on contraceptives issued by the Obama Administration. On November 26, the nation's highest court accepted the federal government's appeal of the June decision by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate to provide potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in employee insurance plans places a substantial burden on the religious freedoms of Hobby Lobby, which is solely owned by David Green and his family.
The full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled 5-3 that the owners of Hobby Lobby can exercise religion and were likely to win their case against the mandate. The ruling by the appellate court overturned a decision by U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton from November 19, 2012 which had denied the Oklahoma-based company's request for an injunction and the appeals court sent the matter back to Heaton.
On July 19, 2013, Judge Heaton granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the abortion-drug mandate. The temporary injunction prevents the government from enforcing the mandate against the Christian-owned company while their religious liberty case proceeds through the legal system. Hobby Lobby was facing $1.3 million per day in federal fines ($100 per day per employee). The company will avoid that astronomical fine until the court finally decides the case.
The HHS mandate requires the company to provide in the employee health insurance plan two drugs and two devices that are potentially life-terminating. The Greens have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and are being provided at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan. Unlike the Catholic for-profit organizations, Hobby Lobby does not object to the contraception requirement, but objects to providing the "morning-after pill" and "week-after pill" in violation of their Biblical principles."These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families," says Green.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) cited only one issue in its petition for appeal: whether the Tenth Circuit Court erred when it struck down the HHS abortion-drug mandate as a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In the filing, the DOJ argued that the 10th Circuit's "decision is incorrect and would transform RFRA from a shield for individuals and religious institutions into a sword used to deny employees of for-profit commercial enterprises the benefits and protections of generally applicable laws."
In response to the DOJ's filing, the Becket Fund's Kyle Duncan said, "The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living. We're confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government's extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone -- including people who run a business."
The case will be argued and decided before the end of the Supreme Court's term in June 2014. The company filed the federal lawsuit on September 12, 2012. There are currently 84 lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Hobby Lobby case has been closely watched by religious groups because it will dictate how ObamaCare regulations will be applied to non-religious businesses with religious owners who claim that the law, or parts of it, violates their conscience.
With over 13,000 full-time employees, Hobby Lobby is by far the largest of the private companies protesting the law. The arts and crafts retailer operates from a 5.2 million-square-foot manufacturing, distribution and office complex in Oklahoma City. It began as Greco Products, a miniature picture frame company founded in a garage by David Green in 1970. Hobby Lobby officially began operation in 1972 with a single store and has been growing ever since. Today, Hobby Lobby has 514 stores in 41 states offering more than 65,000 crafting and home decor products. The company also includes 35 Mardel stores which sell Christian books and education supplies in seven states.
The Greens are consistently faithful to what they believe, in both their personal and professional lives. The Green family owns the world's largest collection of Biblical antiquities, and the family is a generous contributor to numerous Christian organizations across the nation and the world. Green says, "the foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with Biblical principles." The Greens, who close of all of their stores on Sunday, have long been public about their religious beliefs. "We believe wholeheartedly that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has been successful," says Green.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions -- from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law, and they recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of "the most important religious liberty cases in a half century." The Becket Fund led the charge against the HHS mandate, and in addition to Hobby Lobby represents: Little Sisters of the Poor, Guidestone, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network (ETWN), Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.