Last week I introduced a series by Bruce Hausknecht, Focus' judicial analyst, on two cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. These cases can potentially have far-reaching implication on the state of religious liberties in our country, which is why it's important that Christians understand what's going on – and what's at stake.
The first part answered the question, "How did we get here?" In this second part, Bruce answers, "Who are Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties?"
The Green family – David Green, Barbara Green, Steve Green, Mart Green and Darsee Lett – are committed evangelicals, and the founders and owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, as well as Mardel, a chain of Christian bookstores. What began in 1970 in the family garage as a small portrait framing business today employs about 13,000 workers at more than 500 stores across the country.
The Greens intentionally operate their businesses in a manner designed to reflect their religious principles and, in so doing, bring glory to God. They are closed on Sundays, for example. They give widely to charities. They don't sell products that facilitate or promote immorality. They carry religiously themed material, and celebrate Christmas and Easter with full-page ads in newspapers.
Pertinent to their case currently before the Supreme Court, the Greens provide a generous company health plan that includes coverage for most contraceptives. However, they don't want to be complicit in possible abortions that can be caused by four of the drugs and devices required by the HHS mandate.
Conestoga Wood Specialties
open Bible in a man's handsThe Hahn family – Norman and Elizabeth Hahn and their three sons – are second-generation owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, a Pennsylvania wood cabinet and specialty products manufacturer begun by Norman's father in 1964. Devout Mennonite Christians, the Hahns are dedicated to running their business using biblical principles. Guided by those principles, the Hahns concluded (just like the Greens) that being forced to offer possible abortion-causing contraceptive drugs and devices in the company healthcare plan would be an intolerable violation of their deeply held religious belief concerning the sanctity of human life.
Penalized for their faith
The federal government does not contest the sincerity of these families' religious beliefs. But neither is it moved by their pleas for an accommodation of those beliefs—and the pressure the government is putting on these family-owned businesses is considerable.
With 13,000 employees, Hobby Lobby faces a fine of $1,300,000 per day ($100 per employee) if it offers a health plan that doesn't cover all 20 contraceptive drugs and devices contained in the HHS mandate. That's $474 million per year! Although the Greens have made clear that they only object to four out of the 20 required contraceptive drugs and devices, the healthcare law is unforgiving. Even if they objected to only one, the Greens would still be fined the full amount.
Conestoga, with approximately 950 employees, faces a fine of $95,000 per day, or $34,675,000 per year.
These are outrageous penalties for exercising one's faith. No company can survive a financial punishment of that magnitude for long. So the owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga (and dozens of other family-owned companies) filed federal lawsuits asking the courts to stop the fines from starting, and to declare that the HHS mandate violated their religious rights.
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