Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — The popular craft chain Hobby Lobby has been granted a full rehearing of its case challenging Obamacare’s abortion pill mandate.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals announced on Friday that Hobby Lobby’s appeal will go before the entire court as per the company’s request. Cases are customarily held before a panel of three judges, except in what are called en banc hearings.
“It’s extraordinarily rare for the court to do that,” stated Kyle Duncan of The Beckett Fund, which is representing Hobby Lobby in the courts. “We think the takeaway is that the court as a whole recognizes how important the case is and wants to devote their full attention to it.”
“We are grateful that the court granted Hobby Lobby’s petition,” he said.
The court plans to hear the case soon as the company has until July before it will begin to be fined as much as $1.3 million a day for noncompliance. Judges with the court had previously refused to grant an injunction to Hobby Lobby, stating that the burden of Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage requirement was “indirect and attenuated.”
As previously reported, Hobby Lobby, owned by evangelical Christian David Green, had been seeking an emergency injunction against the mandate from all available venues since its request was first turned down by a federal district court in Oklahoma City. While Hobby Lobby states that it has been covering, and will continue to cover, birth control for its over 13,000 employees nationwide, it refuses to pay for two pills that are included in Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate: the morning-after pill and the week-after pill.
U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton, appointed by George W. Bush, ruled against the company in November, opining that Hobby Lobby and its bookstore chain Mardel are not entitled to an exemption from the national healthcare law because “Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations.” He stated that while churches and non-profit entities may qualify for an exemption under Obamacare, a secular business is not a religious institution.
The company then appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, asking the court that it overturn the lower court’s decision and grant the injunction. However, the three-judge panel refused to issue the restraining order, stating similar reasoning as Heaton.
Hobby Lobby then took its request to the nation’s highest court, but Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that it was not “indisputably clear” that Hobby Lobby’s request met the very high bar needed for an injunction. She pointed to the fact that the various circuit courts have been divided on the matter, insinuating that the craft chain still has a chance at eventually winning.
“Even without an injunction pending appeal, the applicants may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts,” Sotomayor wrote. “Following a final judgment, they may, if necessary, file a petition [in the Supreme Court].”