On Thursday the Court ruled that Hobby Lobby stores and Mardel, their sister company which sells Christian books, won’t have to start paying millions of dollars in fines next week for failing to comply with the HHS Mandate provision requiring that companies include contraceptive coverage in employees’ health insurance plans.
Since 1972 when David Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby, opened his first store, Green and his wife have tried to run their family business in accordance with their Christian beliefs. That means they paid a fair wage and offered a generous benefit package. It also means that the comprehensive health insurance package they offered their employees did not cover abortions or abortifacient drugs.
However, the Obama Administration’s new health care law requires that all employers must provide contraceptive coverage to employees. Failure to comply with the law would result in stiff fines.
The 10th Circuit Court, in a unanimous verdict, remanded the case back to a lower court in Oklahoma. That lower court had rejected the company’s request for an injunction to prevent full enforcement of the new health care law.
According to an Associated Press report, the judges’ ruling said, in part:
“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 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.”
“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 U.S. Department of Justice argued that allowing for-profit corporations to exempt themselves from requirements that violate their religious beliefs would be in effect allowing the business to impose its religious beliefs on employees. In its ruling, the 10th Circuit cited a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court conclusion 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,” the judges wrote.
One judge went even further in a concurring opinion.
“No one suggests that organizations, in contrast to their members, have souls,” Judge Harris Hartz wrote. “But it does not follow that people must sacrifice their souls to engage in group activities through an organization.”
Hobby Lobby is among 32 for-profit companies and 30 non-profits which have filed suit to stop implementation of portions of the HHS Mandate. According to the Becket Fund, which is providing legal assistance in the Hobby Lobby case and others, the pending cases represent hospitals, universities, businesses, schools, and people—all speaking with one voice to affirm the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Constitution.
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I wrote about Hobby Lobby earlier this year, when opponents of the government’s intrusion into private enterprise were encouraged to showed their support for the biblically founded business by shopping in their stores on January 5, “Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day.”