- (Photo: Hobby Lobby)
The United States government has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in a case regarding a Christian business that refuses on religious grounds to comply with the Department of Health and Human Services' preventive services mandate.
Filed Thursday, the appeal regards the retail giant Hobby Lobby and its owners' refusal to comply with the HHS mandate.
"The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq., provides that the government "shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest," reads the appeal in part.
"The question presented is whether RFRA allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation's owners."
The listed petitioners for the appeal are HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the HHS Department, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, the Department of Labor, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, and the Treasury Department.
Founded in Oklahoma City in 1972, Hobby Lobby is owned by the Green family and has more than 500 stores in 40 states. The Greens hold religiously-based objections to the "morning-after" and "week-after" pills, and are opposed to paying for such services as part of their employee health insurance.
The Green family does, however, provide health coverage to its employees for contraceptive services not tied to abortion.
Last September, Hobby Lobby filed suit against the HHS over the mandate, which would force the company to pay fines upwards of $1.3 million per day if they are found to not be in compliance.
"The government is saying we have to provide prescriptions that are abortive and that violate our conscience, because we believe that life begins at conception and it's something that we have no desire to fully fund, which is what the mandate requires," said Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, in an earlier interview with The Christian Post.
In late June, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, reversing a lower district court ruling against them.
Hobby Lobby has been represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is overseeing dozens of similar suits against the HHS mandate.
Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby, said in a statement released Thursday that he did not believe the Supreme Court would hear the appeal.
"The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living," said Duncan.
"We're confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government's extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone-including people who run a business."