A federal judge appointed by former president George W. Bush has ruled against the Christian-owned craft chain Hobby Lobby, mandating it to provide coverage for abortion pills to its over 13,000 employees under Obamacare.
Oklahoma U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton released a 28-page ruling yesterday, opining that Hobby Lobby and its bookstore chain Mardel are not entitled to an exemption because “Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations.” He stated that while churches and non-profit entities may qualify under Obamacare, a secular business is not a religious institution.
“Plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion,” Heaton wrote. “The question of whether the Greens can establish a free exercise constitutional violation by reason of restrictions or requirements imposed on general business corporations they own or control involves largely uncharted waters.”
As previously reported, Hobby Lobby first sued the Obama administration in September of this year, challenging two pills required to be covered under the new healthcare law. While Hobby Lobby CEO and founder David Green is not generally against contraception, and says that he has been, and will continue to, offer birth control coverage to his employees, he specifically opposes what is known as the morning-after pill and the 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,” Green wrote in a statement. “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.”
Attorneys for the Obama administration had argued in court that Plan B and drugs like it do not cause abortions, and that the government has a significant interest in requiring that they be covered.
Hobby Lobby could face up to $1.3 million in fines per day if it does not obtain the mandated coverage.
“We disagree with this decision and we will immediately appeal it,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund, following the decision. “Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs.”
The courts have been split on Obamacare’s abortion pill requirement thus far, as last week a federal judge in Illinois issued a temporary injunction against the mandate in favor of the popular Bible publisher Tyndale House. Attorneys with the Obama administration, like in the Hobby Lobby case, are arguing that the company should not be exempted from the requirement because it is a for-profit business.
Additionally, in July of this year, a federal judge in Denver ruled in favor of the Catholic-owned company Hercules Industries, stating that the government’s interests “are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion.”
Hobby Lobby states that it plans to likewise appeal its case in Denver.