With their legal options at an impasse for the time being, and with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against an emergency injunction on their behalf, the owners of the Oklahoma-based retailer Hobby Lobby have decided they will defy the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that requires employers to provide their employees with free contraception – including the so-called u201Cmorning afteru201D pill that has been found to induce abortion in pregnant women.
On December 26, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor refused to grant Hobby Lobby’s request for an emergency injunction blocking implementation of the contraception mandate. As of January 1 the federal government will require thousands of American business owners – even those who say the action violates their moral and religious convictions – to begin including free birth control with their health insurance plans.
Because David Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby and the Mardel Christian book retailer, which have a combined total of over 14,000 employees, has refused to honor the mandate, he and the other owners of the Christian-based company will likely face an estimated $1.3 million in federal fines per day. u201CThe government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law,u201D explained Green as he filed a lawsuit against the mandate last September – a suit that is still pending in the courts. u201CI say that’s a choice no American and no American business should have to make.u201D
Kyle Duncan of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in its legal claim, said in a statement after the Supreme Court ruling: u201CThe company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.u201D
In a statement provided to the Oklahoman newspaper, Duncan confirmed that the businesses are u201Cnot going to comply with the mandate. They’re not going to offer coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the insurance plan.u201D As for the potential fines Hobby Lobby and Mardel face, Duncan said, u201CWe’re just going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it.u201D
In November U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton made an initial decision against Hobby Lobby, ruling that while constitutional protections allowed churches and some religious organizations to opt out of the mandate, u201CHobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizationsu201D and their owners’ religious convictions were not sufficient to provide immunity against the mandate. On December 20, the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals followed up on Heaton’s ruling by denying Green’s request for a temporary injunction while his lawsuit against the mandate goes forward.
Duncan noted that Sotomayor’s ruling against Hobby Lobby’s injunction only meant that the High Court u201Cdecided not to get involved in the case at this time. It left open the possibility of review after [Hobby Lobby's] appeal is completed in the Tenth Circuit.u201D
In explaining the suit he and his family filed to stop the mandate, Green said that as Christians, u201Cwe don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions…. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one.u201D