Hobby Lobby Wins Injunction Against Federal Health Care Mandate
By Sam Lewis, associate editor
U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton grants retailer’s request for stay against the Affordable Care Act.
Saying that the Affordable Healthcare Act has been controversial would be an enormous understatement. Its impact on businesses and retailers has yet to be determined, but many, if not all, are less than excited about the impending changes in hiring and staffing policies it will bring. Hobby Lobby, the family-owned hobby and craft chain, is taking a hard-line stance in its fight against certain components of the new legislation.
On Friday, July 19th, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and its affiliated Christian bookstore chain, Mardel, won a temporary reprieve from federal penalties that could total up to $1.3 million per day, annual penalties close to $26 million, and exposure to private suits for failing to offer insurance coverage for emergency contraceptives to its 13,000+ employees.
Judge Joe Heaton, district judge of Western Oklahoma, stayed the case until October 1st, allowing the Federal government time to appeal the decision. The case most likely will reach the Supreme Court, as the Federal government has already made several revisions to the 2010 healthcare law without making allowances for religious beliefs at for-profit companies.
The Oklahoma City-based retailer’s owners, CEO David Green and four family members, believe that some types of contraception are forms of abortion and contradict with the family’s Christian beliefs. “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,” Green says. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”
This victory comes less than a month after the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reached a 5-3 decision agreeing that employers may put their own religious beliefs above their employees’ rights. The decision allowed Hobby Lobby to exercise religion under the First Amendment, and is likely to be victorious in further engagements in its case against the mandate.
“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby. “This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby, but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.”
Hobby Lobby’s website explains the purpose of their business is, “…honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.” For the time being, Hobby Lobby will continue to be able to operate their business according to their ideologies, but it has yet to be seen which is stronger, the First Amendment or the ACA.