Washington, D.C. — Nearly a dozen members of Congress have collectively filed a brief in federal appeals court in an effort to demonstrate their support for the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby and its resistance against Obamacare’s abortion pill mandate.
Nine senators and two representatives are behind the move, all of which are Republicans. The challenge is said to be led by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.
“Religious freedom is an issue our country was founded on, and it’s not a Democrat or Republican issue,” Hatch, a Mormon, told reporters this week. “Unfortunately, the Obama administration has time and again ignored calls to stop the implementation of a policy some organizations or businesses are morally opposed to.”
In the brief filed with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Congressmen assert that Obamacare’s contraceptive requirement as it pertains to for-profit businesses violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that passed Congress in 1993 and was signed by Bill Clinton.
“Congress has commanded equal treatment of all under a religion-protective rule,” the document states. “Defendants may not pick and choose whose exercise of religion is protected and whose is not.”
It contends that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was written to pertain to corporations, not just non-profit entities.
Senators involved with the effort include Dan Coates of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Lamar Smith of Texas and Frank Wolf of Virginia were the two representatives that added their name to the legal brief.
Kyle Duncan, attorney for The Beckett Fund, which has been representing Hobby Lobby, applauded the Congressmen for their support.
“While any brief by sitting members of Congress is significant, this one comes from members who originally supported the federal civil-rights law — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 — which is at the heart of the mandate challenges, ” he said. “The brief leaves no doubt that Congress intended to protect the religious freedom of those like Hobby Lobby and its founder, David Green, against federal attempts to force them to insure abortion-inducing drugs.”
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 last 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].”
Therefore, the case is moving forward in the courts in the absence of an injunction. A dozen amicus briefs have been filed by entities across the country in support of the craft chain’s fight against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.