DENVER – The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the denial of an injunction to the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby, sending the matter back to the lower court for further review.
“[Hobby Lobby has] established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm,” the court ruled on Thursday. “But we remand the case to the district court for further proceedings on two of the remaining factors governing the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction.”
As previously reported, the 10th Circuit had agreed earlier this year to hear Hobby Lobby’s challenge to Obamacare’s contraception mandate en banc before a full panel of nine judges. Last month, attorneys for Hobby Lobby had a proverbial showdown with the United States Department of Justice in Denver, Colorado.
“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.”
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.
Contrary to the Obama administration’s assertions throughout the legal battle, the appeals court ruled Thursday that Hobby Lobby’s status as a business does not disqualify its owners from living out their faith.
“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,” the justices wrote. “As a court, we do not see how we can distinguish this form of evangelism from any other.”
Hoby Lobby first began its fight last year, seeking to obtain an injunction against two contraceptives that it believes cause abortions: the morning-after and week-after pill. The company currently provides birth control coverage to its employees and takes no issue with contraceptives in general.
“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.”
The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to grant the injunction, stating that Hobby Lobby still has a chance of success in the lower courts. The craft chain and its attorneys saw Thursday’s ruling as a victory — not only for the company, but also for faith-based businesses across the country.
“We are encouraged by today’s decision from the 10th Circuit,” Green said in a statement. “We believe that business owners should not have to be forced to choose between following their faith and following the law. We will continue to fight for our religious freedom, and we appreciate the prayers of support we have received.”
The district court in Oklahoma must now decide whether Hobby Lobby should be granted the injunction in accordance with the appeals court’s findings, and must review two other factors weighing in on the injunction.