(Photo: The Becket Fund)
A petition with 80,000 signatures brought forward by a social activist group demanding that Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. drop its lawsuit opposing the Health and Human Services "preventive services" mandate is misleading and wrong, says a lawyer for the Christian family-owned nationwide business.
According to a press release from "Faithful America" and subsequent news reports, a Christian evangelical pastor identified as the Rev. Lance Schmitz of Capitol Hill Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City, attempted to deliver the petition to the Hobby Lobby headquarters in Oklahoma City on Thursday and was kicked off the premises and unable to deliver the petition.
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund, who is defending Hobby Lobby in the HHS lawsuit, told The Christian Post on Thursday that although he does not know exactly what transpired at the company's headquarters, he has read the petition.
"The petition is misleading. It makes it seem as if Hobby Lobby is seeking to exclude birth control from its health plan all together. That's just not true. The Green family and Hobby Lobby do not have any religious objection to birth control per se. Their plans have covered preventive contraceptives and will continue to do so," Duncan said.
"What Hobby Lobby objects to and the reason they sued is because the HHS mandate forces Hobby Lobby to include a specific kind of drug," he explained.
The drugs are called Plan B and Levonelle, otherwise known as "the morning-after pill" and "the week-after pill."
"For many people, [the pills] are not even considered birth control because the way they operate is to prevent the implantation of an egg in the womb. For millions of Americans that take the traditional Christian view that life begins at conception, that amounts to an early abortion," Duncan said. "The petition totally misses that and instead says that 'Hobby Lobby is denying women birth control and therefore denying health care.' So, the premise of the petition is wrong."
The petition by Faithful America, an "online community of over 175,000 people of faith taking action on pressing moral issues of social justice and the common good," reads:
"Don't use your Christian faith as an excuse to obstruct health care reform and deny women access to birth control. I won't shop at your store until you drop this lawsuit, and I'll tell my friends to do the same."
In response to not being able to deliver the petition, Schmitz said, according to Faithful America's release: "I thought a Christian business would be interested in hearing from a pastor with a petition signed by thousands of people of faith. I guess Hobby Lobby is more interested in using their faith to score political points than in finding a way to ensure that its female employees get the health care they need."
In its statement, the group added, "Although Oklahoma clergy were prevented from delivering the petitions, people of faith, members of UltraViolet, and Hobby Lobby customers continue to urge the company to drop their misdirected lawsuit and ensure their female employees have access to birth control instead of joining in political attacks against health care reform."
Faithful America director and petition organizer Michael Sherrard categorized Hobby Lobby's suit against the portion of the mandate that requires access to the abortion pills as a denial of health care, which Hobby Lobby's legal representative rejects.
"When Hobby Lobby responds to an evangelical Christian pastor concerned about their policy by calling security to escort him off the property, it's fair to say their lawsuit has nothing to do with religious freedom," said Sherrard. "There's nothing Christian about seeking to deny health care services that will improve the lives of women and families."
Duncan said that Hobby Lobby is not demanding anything from its employees and will not police anything they do in their private lives.
"People are free to believe whatever they want. But all Hobby Lobby is doing is asking the same thing – to be able to practice their own faith. Hobby Lobby is not saying anything about what their employees can and cannot do. Hobby Lobby employees are free to do whatever they want," he said.
"All Hobby Lobby is saying is that we offer benefits to our employees and we are being forced to offer benefits that we consider to be immoral that implicates Hobby Lobby and the Green family. They are saying that they want to structure their business along the lines of their faith."