Craft store chain Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration's requirement that most health insurance plans cover contraceptives for women, citing the owner's religious beliefs and opposition to covering abortion-inducing drugs.
The rule change took effect for businesses on Aug. 1, and requires coverage for sterilization, contraception and some abortion-causing drugs. Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the mandate thus far, joining 26 other separate lawsuits. A variety of religious groups have pushed back against the rule, saying it is a violation of their fundamental right to religious freedom.
Critics of the mandate have pointed out that while there are exemptions for places of worship, the exemptions are so narrow that they would disqualify those who serve people outside of their faith, like Mother Teresa and Jesus Christ. Religiously affiliated organizations such as hospitals, school and charities are not exempted, and non-profits have until Aug. 1, 2013, to comply.
Hobby Lobby CEO and founder David Green credits God's grace and provision with Hobby Lobby's success, and said the company cannot abandon its religious standards in order to comply with the mandate.
"We seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles," Green said. "The conflict for me is that our family is being forced to choose between following the laws of the country that we love, or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families."
In a conference call with reporters, Kyle Duncan, general counsel to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said the Greens don't object to most contraceptives and already include them in the company's insurance plans. They do, however, oppose abortion-inducing drugs.
Although the Greens were reluctant to file a lawsuit, Duncan said they could not "in good conscience" go against their beliefs, and the government has turned a deaf ear to the rights of business owners.
"No one wants to go to court. No one wants to have to go and sue their own government," Duncan said. "We have a Constitution and federal law that protects the religious liberty of all Americans, and so it is with a heavy heart that anyone needs to go to court to sue their own government to remind the government that they can't fine people like the Green family for refusing to violate their faith."
The mandate is enforced in three separate ways, Duncan said. If Hobby Lobby can't comply with the mandate and drops all health insurance coverage, the company would pay a fine of roughly $26 million per year. If it continued to offer insurance without the mandated items, Hobby Lobby would face $1.3 million in fines per day. If an employee decides that she wanted the contraceptive items covered, she could bring a lawsuit against the company.
"Hobby Lobby should never be put in the position of choosing their faith over their business," Duncan said. "Washington politicians cannot force families to abandon their faith just to earn a living."
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