A federal judge is temporarily exempting Hobby Lobby Inc. from a provision in the new federal health care law that requires it to offer insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar birth control or face steep fines.
After hearing brief arguments Friday, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued a preliminary injunction for the Oklahoma arts and crafts chain. The judge stayed the case until Oct. 1 to give the federal government time to consider an appeal.
The Christian owners of Hobby Lobby and the Mardel Christian bookstore chain argue that their religious beliefs are so deeply rooted that having to provide every form of birth control would violate their conscience.
“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby. “This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby, but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.”
In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”
Duncan says there are now 63 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. The Becket Fund currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.
Before today’s decision, Kristina Arriaga Executive Director of the pro-life legal group The Becket Fund, told LifeNews: “Hobby Lobby is the largest business to challenge the HHS Mandate in court. And the 10th Circuit decision was the result of the rare opportunity to present the case directly to the full court instead of a smaller panel and it represents the first definitive appellate ruling against the mandate,” Arriaga said. “And, while the 10th Circuit’s decision helped spare Hobby Lobby from exposure to tremendous government fines scheduled to begin just days after the court ruled, its opinion is an true victory for the many other religious business owners who find themselves facing the same “Hobson’s choice”– as the Court of Appeals called it – as Hobby Lobby’s Green family; that is, follow the law or follow your conscience.”
Arriaga said the battle today is be an even greater milestone in this fight because, “unless the government has a sudden change of heart – which is unlikely – the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide this case.”