Denver, CO. — The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument on Thursday surrounding the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby and its desire to obtain a federal injunction against the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare.
As previously reported, the company takes no issue with covering the birth control costs of its employees, but refuses to make provision for two contraceptives that it believes cause abortions: the morning-after and week-after pill.
“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,” CEO David Green wrote in a statement last year. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate. … By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow.”
On Thursday, attorneys for Hobby Lobby had a proverbial showdown with the United States Department of Justice in front of eight justices with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado. In a rare move, the court had granted a full rehearing of the case earlier this year. Most appeals generally only involve three judges.
“Is religion the kind of right that can only be exercised by a natural person?” Kyle Duncan of The Beckett Fund asked the court. “Well, the question nearly answers itself. … It’s not a purely personal right.”
Duncan told the justices that business owners should be allowed an exemption from laws that violate their deeply-held religious beliefs, and that Hobby Lobby should not be fined for merely practicing its religion.
However, Alisa Klein, who represented the U.S. Department of Justice, argued that if the injunction is granted, Hobby Lobby would in essence be forcing its religious beliefs on its 13,000 employees.
“If you make an exemption for the employer, it comes at the expense of the employee,” she said.
Klein compared the exemption to one who attempts to avoid paying income taxes.
“This is much more like a taxpayer saying, ‘I don’t want to pay into the general treasury because I can identify a subset of government spending that violates my religious beliefs,'” she claimed.
Each side had 30 minutes to present their argument, and the panel questioned both regarding their views on whether the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare places an undue burden on Hobby Lobby’s free exercise of religion.
According to reports, Hobby Lobby is asking the court to expedite a ruling as July 1 marks the deadline when the company will be potentially fined up to $1.3 million per day for noncompliance.
“We are encouraged by today’s hearing before the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Duncan said in a press release following the hearing. “Being heard before all eight judges – rather than the typical three-judge panel – signifies the importance of the case and the arguments being made. We stand firm in our belief that Hobby Lobby should have the right to opt out of a provision that infringes on their religious beliefs, and we look forward to a favorable outcome.”