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Thursday, May 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Hobby Lobby Won’t Get Obamacare Injunction

(CN) - Hobby Lobby must provide health insurance coverage for "abortion-causing drugs and devices," including the morning-after pill, a federal judge ruled.

The arts-and-crafts retailer, five members of the Green family who own the business, and the Christian-themed retailer Mardel sued the Obama administration in September, demanding an exemption to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

They argued that religiously motivated business owners, such as themselves, would be forced to violate their faith under threat of $1.3 million in fines per day.

"The Green family believes they are obligated to run their businesses in accordance with their faith," the complaint stated. "Commitment to Jesus Christ and to Biblical principals is what gives their business endeavors meaning and purpose."

The family claimed that the health care mandate "runs roughshod" over their beliefs.

"The mandate illegally and unconstitutionally coerces the Green family to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits," the complaint stated.

"The mandate also forces the Green family to facilitate government-dictated speech incompatible with their own speech and religious beliefs. Having to pay fines for the privilege of practicing one's own religion or controlling one's speech is alien to our American traditions of individual liberty, religious tolerance and limited government. It is also illegal and unconstitutional."

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton refused to enter a preliminary injunction Monday.

"The question of whether plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their constitutional claims requires a threshold determination of whether the particular plaintiffs have constitutional 'free exercise' rights subject to being violated," the 28-page order states. "As to the Greens, the answer to that is obviously yes. However, as to the corporations - Hobby Lobby and Mardel - the court concludes otherwise."

Although companies have constitutional rights in some circumstances, they are not available to the same extent that they are to people, according to the ruling. Heaton also noted the difference between protections given to businesses and churches.

"Churches and other religious organizations or religious corporations have been accorded protection under the free exercise clause, because believers 'exercise their religion through religious organizations," the order states. "However, Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations. Plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion."

Regarding the claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Heaton reiterated Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not "persons" under the law.

"Business corporations do not, separate and apart from the actions or belief systems of their individual owners or employees, exercise religion," Heaton wrote. "They do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiously-motivated actions separate and apart from the intention and direction of their individual actors."

Religious exercise is a "purely personal" matter that is not a part of a general business corporation, according to the ruling

"The Greens have not established that compliance with the preventive care coverage regulations would 'substantially burden' their religious exercise, as the term 'substantially burdened' is used in the statute," Heaton wrote.

The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which claims to have assisted the plaintiffs with the lawsuit, says it will pursue an appeal.

"Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs,"Beckett Fund general counsel Kyle Duncan said in a statement. "The Green family needs relief now and we will seek it immediately from the federal appeals court in Denver."

Privately owned Hobby Lobby employs more than 13,000 people across at least 500 stores in 40 states, according to the complaint. Mardel operates 35 stores in seven states and has 372 full-time employees.

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