In one of the most closely watched issues involving religious freedom, the U.S. Supreme Court has denied Hobby Lobby's request for an injunction, deciding instead to allow the legal battle in the lower courts to continue.
David Green, CEO of the family-owned arts and crafts retailer, had appealed a lower court's decision to not allow the company to opt out of President Obama's contraceptive mandate, arguing that they were being forced to "violate their faith by covering abortion-causing drugs or be exposed to severe penalties."
The mandate, put in place this year, requires businesses and nonprofits to provide contraceptive coverage, including the controversial "morning after" pill that many conservatives equate to abortion. Some exceptions were made for religious entities.
Hobby Lobby's refusal to comply with the mandate could result in fines totaling $1.3 million.
The high court's ruling doesn't specifically address the merits of the case, but denies the company's request for the time being while the case plays out in court. There are currently over 40 cases pending on the contraceptive mandate.
District court Judge Joe Heaton initially issued a 28-page ruling against the privately owned family company, saying they had no "clear and unequivocal" right to be removed from the Obama administration's mandate outlined in the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as ObamaCare.
In early December the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that Hobby Lobby was not able to prove the rule would provide a "substantial burden" in complying with the mandate. Although the mandate does contain exemptions for churches and other religious groups, a lower court said the company was not a religious group.
The 40-year-old company filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in early December after the 10th Circuit issued its ruling.
"Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to make a living without forfeiting their religious beliefs," Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, said after the 10th Circuit's ruling. "The Green family needs relief before Jan. 1, and so we have asked the federal appeals court in Denver to issue an injunction against the mandate."
There are 40 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, but Hobby Lobby is the largest non-Catholic company to bring suit.
The Becket Fund is leading the charge against the HHS mandate, and along with Hobby Lobby represents: Wheaton College, Belmont Abbey College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network and Ave Maria University.
"It is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured," said David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, in a written statement after the 10th circuit ruling. "Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles."