Hobby Lobby’s Battle Against Obama Admin’s HHS Mandate Heads to Supreme Court
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week in Hobby Lobby’s battle to protect itself from the HHS mandate that is apart of Obamacare. Hobby Lobby is challenging the mandate in court because it doesn’t want to be forced to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs for its employees.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the landmark case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores on March 25 determine whether individuals lose their religious freedom when they open a family business.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys challenging the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate are behind a second case the Supreme Court will hear.
The owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, the Hahns, are a practicing and believing Mennonite Christian family. They desire to run the company, a wholesale manufacturer of custom wood kitchen cabinet parts, in a manner that reflects their sincerely held religious beliefs, including their belief that God requires respect for the sanctity of human life.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys represent the Hahns in a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration over its abortion pill mandate. The mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if the mandate’s requirements aren’t met.
“The government has no business bullying family business owners into paying for other people’s abortion pills, which are widely available at low cost,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The Constitution guarantees the highest form of respect to the freedom of families like the Hahns. It’s absurd for the government to argue that disregarding the Hahn family’s freedom is necessary when it already exempts 100 million people from this unjust mandate.”
“Americans must be free to exercise their constitutionally protected liberties without fear of punishment,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “No American family should be forced to choose between following their faith and submitting to unlawful and unnecessary government mandates.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued rules that health care plans must include all FDA-approved contraceptives, including drugs that can destroy a human embryo and sterilization services, without a direct cost to the patient. The HHS mandate contains only an exemption for churches and their affiliates. Religious nonprofits and businesses run by people of faith are not exempt and face crippling fines for noncompliance of up to $100 per day, per employee.
Hobby Lobby, the family-owned arts and crafts business that has been the most high-profile plaintiff against Obamacare, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to protect it from being forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or be forced to pay severe fines. The company filed a brief last month at the Supreme Court is in preparation for oral arguments on March 25, 2014 before the nation’s highest court.
Hobby Lobby’s brief calls on two centuries of high court rulings to counter the government’s reasoning that the Greens’ rights as individuals cannot be exercised through their family-owned corporation. The brief insists that this freedom does not “turn on [the Company’s] tax status,” and further states that the Administration cannot “divide and conquer” the Greens’ religious liberties from those of Hobby Lobby to make those rights “simply vanish.”
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions. This is good news to the Green family, who own the store.
The Obama administration says it is confident it will prevail, saying, “We believe this requirement is lawful…and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.”
The Supreme Court is also taking the case of the Mennonite cabinet makers forced to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
In July, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The injunction prevented the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company, but the Obama administration appealed that ruling recently. The government’s appeal makes it highly likely that the Supreme Court will decide the issue in the upcoming term.
Hobby Lobby asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case and decide whether the Green family will be required to provide and pay for life-terminating drugs and devices in violation of their religious beliefs, according to an email from its attorneys to LifeNews.
“Hobby Lobby’s case raises important questions about who can enjoy religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “Right now, some courts recognize the rights of business owners like the Green family, and others do not. Religious freedom is too important to be left to chance. The Supreme Court should take this case and protect religious freedom for the Green family and Hobby Lobby.”
Duncan said last June the Christian-owned and operated business won a major victory before the en banc 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the government’s argument that the Green family and their family-owned businesses, Hobby Lobby and a Christian bookstore chain named Mardel, could not legally exercise religion.
The court further said the businesses were likely to win their challenge to the HHS mandate. Since then, courts in other parts of the country have ruled differently, setting up a conflict that only the Supreme Court can resolve.
The Court will consider the government’s petition and Hobby Lobby’s response next month. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June.
“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.”
After the appeals court ruling, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued a preliminary injunction and stayed the case until Oct. 1 to give the Obama administration time to appeal the decision.
In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”
Duncan says there are now 63 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. The Becket Fund currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.
Hobby Lobby could have paid as much as $1.3 million each day in fines for refusing to pay for birth control or abortion-causing drugs under the mandate.
A December 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans disagree with forcing companies like Hobby Lobby to obey the mandate.
“Half of voters now oppose a government requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees,” Rasmussen reports.The poll found: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 38% of Likely U.S. Voters still believe businesses should be required by law to provide health insurance that covers all government-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments or other charges to the patient.
Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and say employers should not be required to provide health insurance with this type of coverage. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”
Another recent poll found 59 percent of Americans disagree with the mandate.
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