- (Photo: Courtesy of The Green Collection)
A federal judge has ruled against a Christian business' request for an injunction against having to adhere to the "preventive services" mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Judge Joe Heaton of the United States District Court of the Western District of Oklahoma ruled Monday that Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. did not have a "clear and unequivocal" right to an injunction against the controversial HHS mandate, which is part of the Affordable Care Act.
"The court is not unsympathetic to plaintiffs' circumstances and recognizes that the ACA's substantial expansion of employer obligations results in concerns and issues not previously confronted by companies or their owners," said Heaton.
"However, for the reasons previously stated, the court concludes plaintiffs have not made the necessary showing of a likelihood of success on the merits to warrant a preliminary injunction in the circumstances existing here."
Hobby Lobby is being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is overseeing several other suits against the HHS mandate. In a statement, attorney Kyle Duncan promised an appeal against the decision.
"We disagree with this decision and we will immediately appeal it," said Duncan, who serves as general counsel at the Becket Fund.
"Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs. The Green family needs relief now and we will seek it immediately from the federal appeals court in Denver."
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a retail store chain with an estimated 22,500 employees, is owned by the Green family. It is the only non-Catholic business to file suit against the federal government over the HHS mandate.
The mandate allows for an exemption in which businesses morally opposed to providing "preventive services" can have their insurance companies provide for it instead. However, Hobby Lobby is self-insured and therefore cannot take advantage of that exemption.
Hobby Lobby filed its lawsuit in September. While unopposed to providing contraceptive services, the Green family stated that they took issue with the part of the mandate wherein they have to provide the 'morning after pill' and 'week after pill', which are considered abortifacients. Arguments regarding the injunction were heard at the beginning of November.
The company has said it will face a daily $1.3 million fine beginning Jan. 1 if it ignores the mandates.
While Hobby Lobby could not get a preliminary injunction against the mandate, other business have been more successful. Tyndale House Publishers was granted an injunction by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton last Friday.