- (Photo: The Becket Fund)
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Christian-led business Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., can proceed with its case against the HHS birth-control mandate and is exempt from millions of dollars in fines that would have started next week for not complying with the federal requirement.
"Today marks a milestone in Hobby Lobby's fight for religious liberty," said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "This is a tremendous victory not only for the Green family and for their business, but also for many other religious business owners who should not have to forfeit their faith to make a living."
The ruling means the Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby will have more time to argue in a lower court that for-profit businesses, not just currently exempted religious groups, should have the right to ask for an exception if the law violates their religious beliefs. The company, led by founder and CEO David Green and his family, had filed a lawsuit against the mandate saying it violates their religious beliefs.
On Thursday, the court in Denver reasoned that 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. 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."
Founded in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972, the Green family has grown Hobby Lobby from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 500 stores in over 40 states. "It is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured," said David Green, founder and CEO. "Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles."
Hobby Lobby is the largest business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate. The Green family has no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue covering them in Hobby Lobby's health plan, the Becket Fund stated. "However, the Green family's religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the 'morning-after' and 'week-after pills, which would violate their deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception," the law group added.
The business' lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion, Becket Fund stated.
The Catholic Association immediately responded to the ruling with a statement on Thursday.
"Today's ruling was the most decisive victory yet against the abortion-pill mandate. The number of religious freedom victories against the mandate continues to mount, sending the clearest signal possible to the Obama administration that no employer, no matter where he or she works, should be forced to choose between violating his or her conscience and paying a fine," said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association. "We hope that President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius will heed the court and give people of faith all over this country relief from this unjust mandate."
There are now 60 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Becket Fund said it is leading the charge against the "unconstitutional HHS mandate." The Becket Fund currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University , and Belmont Abbey College.