U.S. Supreme Court takes Hobby Lobby case

Daily News Article   —   Posted on December 4, 2013
  • The ObamaCare law mandates that every individual in the U.S. purchase health insurance.
  • Included in the law is the requirement that all health insurance policies give women free contraceptives.
  • Included in the laws’ list of contraceptives are abortifacients (the morning-after pill, the week-after pill).
  • The Los Angeles Times reported last week: “Christian employers have gone to court, citing the 1993 law [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] and saying they have a sincere religious objection to providing ‘abortion-causing’ drugs such as the ‘morning after’ pill. And they have won before the U.S. appeals courts in Denver and Chicago. 
  • Hobby Lobby Inc., is a nationwide chain of more than 500 crafts stores with 13,000 full-time employees.

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court sit for their official photograph on October 8, 2010, at the Supreme Court. Front row, from left: Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Back row, from left: Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan.

(by Chris Casteel, NewsOK.com) – The U.S. Supreme Court [last Tuesday] agreed to review the lawsuit filed by Hobby Lobby against the federal government over the Obamacare mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage in their health plans, specifically the “morning-after” pill. [Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the Health and Human Services mandate that forces all companies, regardless of religious conviction, to provide coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, including the morning-after pill and week-after pill.]

Hobby Lobby, which is owned by an Oklahoma City family with strong Christian beliefs, says a 1993 law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, protects the company from the mandate. The company is particularly opposed to paying for coverage that includes the morning after pill. [The Green family has no moral objection to the use of 16 of 20 preventive contraceptives required in the mandate and will continue its longstanding practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, the Green family cannot provide or pay for four possible life-threatening drugs and devices. These abortion-causing drugs include Plan B and Ella, the so-called morning-after pill and the week-after pill.  Covering these drugs and devices would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.  If Hobby Lobby refuses to comply it would face fines of $1.3 million dollars per day.] 

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is a step below the U.S. Supreme Court, agreed with Hobby Lobby, ruling essentially that corporations have the same religious rights as individuals.

The U.S. Justice Department, representing the Obama administration in the case, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 10th Circuit’s decision, and justices agreed [last week] to do so.

The Supreme Court accepted a related case from Pennsylvania involving a furniture making company with Mennonite owners. In that case, a federal appeals court ruled that the owners could not challenge the mandate on religious grounds because a company did not enjoy the same rights as individuals.

A Supreme Court decision in the case is likely before the term ends next summer.


Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, is solely owned by David Green and his family.

“This is a major step for the Greens and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.”

Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, said, “My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case.”

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “The health care law puts women and families in control of their health care by covering vital preventive care, like cancer screenings and birth control, free of charge. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider a legal challenge to the health care law’s requirement that for-profit corporations include birth control coverage (including abortion-causing drugs) in insurance available to their employees. We believe this requirement is lawful and essential to women’s health and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.

“We do not comment on specifics of a case pending before the Court.  As a general matter, our policy is designed to ensure that health care decisions are made between a woman and her doctor.

“The President believes that no one, including the government or for-profit corporations, should be able to dictate those decisions to women. The Administration has already acted to ensure no church or similar religious institution will be forced to provide contraception coverage and has made a common sense accommodation for non-profit religious organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds. These steps protect both women’s health and religious beliefs, and seek to ensure that women and families – not their bosses or corporate CEOs – can make personal health decisions based on their needs and their budgets.”

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “The Supreme Court’s consideration of the Hobby Lobby case is the most important religious liberty question in recent years. What’s at stake in this case is whether or not the Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion.

“We cannot accept the lesson that the government has sought to teach us, that religion is merely a matter of what happens during the scheduled times of our [church] services, and is left there in the foyer during the rest of the week. Our religious convictions aren’t reduced to mere opinions we hide in our heart and in our hymns. Our religious convictions inform the way we live.

“I pray the Supreme Court recognizes what the founders of this country saw, that religious liberty isn’t a gift handed to us by Uncle Caesar. Religious liberty is given to us by God and is inalienable. Let’s pray for the justices as they think through this monumentally important case.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), there are more than 40 active cases in the country “in which a for-profit business argues that it should not have to comply with the federal rule on the grounds that it violates the religious beliefs of the business and its owners. There are additional cases brought by non-profit organizations challenging the rule as well.”

“Everyone has a right to their religious beliefs, but religious freedom does not include the right to impose your beliefs on others,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “It does not mean that businesses can refuse to comply with the law based on their religious beliefs, particularly where that means discriminating against their employees.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said, “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to review Hobby Lobby’s legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is a victory for the company, the Green Family, and for all of us engaged in the fight to protect religious liberty.

“Our Founding Fathers created a system to protect Americans’ religious freedom from an overbearing and intrusive government. It’s clear the health care law’s ‘contraception mandate’ goes against that very notion by requiring [forcing] religious groups to violate their lawful beliefs and practices.

“The State of Oklahoma has supported Hobby Lobby and the Green Family by filing an amicus brief in support of their lawsuit, and we will continue to support them as the Supreme Court reviews this case.”

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, said, “I applaud the Supreme Court’s announcement today to review ObamaCare’s mandate on employers to cover contraceptive and abortion inducing drugs. This mandate violates our Founding Fathers’ belief that government is to protect the right of conscience. President Obama’s law orders a new moral code on how we should value human rights; in this instance the right of the unborn, the most voiceless among us.

“Despite being faced with millions of dollars in fines by the federal government, David Green and his company Hobby Lobby have honorably challenged the government’s ability to infringe on the religious liberty and right of conscience for every American. Our Supreme Court judges must weigh this case with the recognition it will be a pivotal decision for the future of religious freedom in our nation.”

(Originally published on Nov. 26.) Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the NewsOK.com. Visit the website at newsok.com.


About Hobby Lobby's lawsuit:

  • The [Department of Health and Human Services] HHS mandate requires the family-owned business [and all businesses] to provide insurance coverage for the “morning after pill” and “week after pill” contrary to their religious convictions or pay fines to the IRS.
  • Devout Christians, the Green family believes that “it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.” Therefore, the Greens seek to honor God by “operating their company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”
  • The Greens believe that Hobby Lobby cannot fulfill its mission while paying for these drugs (the “morning after pill” and “week after pill”) that conflict with their beliefs.
  • The Green family has no moral objection to the use of 16 of 20 preventive contraceptives required in the mandate and will continue its longstanding practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees.
  • However, the Green family cannot provide or pay for four possible life-threatening drugs and devices.
  • These drugs include Plan B and Ella, the so-called morning-after pill and the week-after pill.  Covering these drugs and devices would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception, when an egg is fertilized.
  • The Green family respects the religious convictions of all Americans, including those who do not agree with them. All they are asking is for the government to give them the same respect by not forcing them to violate their religious beliefs. (from becketfund.org/hobbylobby)

  • Read ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/12/12-6294.pdf the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' June 2013 decision for Hobby Lobby v. Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • Read a commentary "Obama's contracepton mandate heads to supreme Court" by William McGurn at nypost on Nov. 29:

    So [Supreme Court Chief Justice] John Roberts will get another whack at ObamaCare.

    That’s the upshot of the Supreme Court’s decision to hear lawsuits against the contraceptive mandate filed by the Christian family that owns the Hobby Lobby craft and Mardel Christian bookstore chains. David Green and his family say the mandate would force them to underwrite practices they regard as immoral.

    From the moment the Obama administration first put forth this mandate, it’s been clear that church-affiliated nonprofits - from Notre Dame to the Tyndale House Publishers - would protest. What few could foresee is that the mandate would end up bringing to the Supreme Court the question Hobby Lobby now poses: Does a business owner forfeit his faith as the price of doing business?

    The family that runs Hobby Lobby is committed to “honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.” Although they’re Christian, the appeals courts that ruled in their favor pointed out it’s easy to imagine, say, a kosher butcher or a matzo maker advancing much the same argument for their right to conduct their businesses in accord with Jewish law.

    The contraceptive mandate has made the price of such principles high. In Hobby Lobby’s case, if the company refuses to comply it would face fines of $1.3 million dollars per day.

    In a brief filed this year, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty summed up Hobby Lobby’s predicament this way: “When the government threatens to ruin a family’s business unless they renounce their faith, the pressure placed on them is unmistakable. In other words, ‘Your business or your religion’ is just as effective a threat as ‘Your money or your life.’ ”

    Which puts Chief Justice Roberts back at the center of attention. On the one hand, the last time ObamaCare came before him he found the individual mandate constitutional. He did so, moreover, with an it’s-a-tax argument that even the other four justices who voted with him didn’t seem to believe, and no other court had found.

    On the other hand, Roberts also wrote the unanimous opinion in the big religious-liberty case the high court decided last year. This was Hosanna-Tabor, in which a teacher for a Lutheran school sued when she was fired. Writing for the court, Roberts called the government’s arguments on religion “extreme” and “untenable” - and came down foursquare in favor of the right of churches to choose their own ministers.

    The administration’s handling of the contraceptive mandate carries the same whiff of intolerance that characterized its argument in Hosanna-Tabor. In Hosanna-Tabor, the government’s position was that the ministerial exception for churches shouldn’t exist at all. The Obama argument on the contraceptive mandate isn’t much of an improvement: You only qualify for an exception if your ministry excludes those outside your faith. In other words, only a Good Samaritan who limits his help to other Samaritans could qualify.

    Now the bill for this absolutism is coming due. Instead of a debate over the religious rights of churches, we now have a spirited legal debate over the religious rights of businesses. Fully half the suits filed against the contraceptive mandate come from for-profit companies.

    And guess what? Right now, of the 38 cases where there have been rulings on the merits, 32 have backed the businesses. The big divide among these courts is whether businesses have rights as businesses, or only through their owners.

    The case against the government is pretty strong. Back in 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act near-unanimously, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. Though it confirms that religious liberty isn’t absolute - the government, for example, can enforce inoculations or quarantines in the event of epidemic - it requires the government’s interest to be compelling and the means chosen the least restrictive.

    That doesn’t guarantee the Supreme Court will find for the Hobby Lobby. It does suggest the debate President Obama triggered with his contraceptive mandate has now exploded far outside its original confines.

    In other words, once again the Obama administration has overreached. The ironies are legion:

    The chief justice who blessed ObamaCare’s individual mandate may well author a decision that the employer contraceptive mandate violates federal civil-rights law.

    The progressives (liberals) who are the first to holler that businesses have a corporate responsibility to follow ethical policies argue here that they have no rights outside the bottom line.

    And the same White House that kicked off this whole debate by drawing [such a] narrow exemption...may well find it has provoked the Supreme Court into confirming a far broader business right to religious freedom.