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 today to protect it from being forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or be forced to pay severe fines.
The brief filed today at the Supreme Court is in preparation for oral arguments on March 25, 2014 before the nation’s highest court.
The written brief filed today at the Supreme Court, calls a federal mandate to provide objectionable drugs and devices “one of the most straightforward violations … this Court is likely to see” of a 1993 law preserving the free exercise of faith.
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.”
“Hobby Lobby’s latest brief brings into even sharper focus the issue at the heart of this landmark case: No one should be forced to give up their constitutionally protected civil rights just to go into business,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby. “The filing demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the government’s efforts to strip this family business of its religious rights represent a gross violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the Tenth Circuit’s strong affirmation of the Greens’ rights to live out their deeply held beliefs in every aspect of their business.”
“The government has taken the extreme position that Americans forfeit their constitutional rights when they open a family business,” said Duncan. “That rule would give the government broad powers to restrict religious freedom. People of all faiths should be concerned.”
In an opinion column at USA Today, James Lankford and Tony Perkins explain the rationale behind the new filing.
As of 2013, the Green family had to decide if they would follow their faith or follow the Obama administration’s new regulations.
The Green family, through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, will file its brief with the Supreme Court Monday seeking relief from paying a daily fine of potentially more than $1.3 million for refusing to violate their biblically based views on life. They are currently not complying with insurance coverage requirements issued by the Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to Obamacare. Their opposition to the HHS mandate is not a frivolous one; it is due to their deeply held religious beliefs.
The Green family’s faith influences the day-to-day operation of their stores, including paying their employees a starting salary of $14 an hour, giving their employees family-friendly hours, closing on Sunday and offering their employees a generous health care package.
The HHS mandate requires employers to fully pay for contraception coverage in their health insurance plans, which includes potential life-ending drugs. The Greens do not object to birth control, but they do have a religious objection to providing coverage for drugs and devices that can cause the death of newly conceived human embryos, specifically two types of IUDs and the drugs known as “Plan B” and “Ella.”
Without a positive result from the Supreme Court, the Greens will be forced to pay millions of dollars in federal fines if they maintain their convictions.
Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and work according to their religious beliefs. The HHS mandate demands that ordinary Americans bend to the administration’s religious preferences and violate their principles or stand up for their religious rights and be fined up to $100 per day, per employee. For the Greens that would be more than $36,500 annually per employee. The other option would simply be to drop health care coverage for all employees and direct them to the Obamacare exchanges. This option would only cost an employer $2,000 per employee, per year — potentially over $26 million annually for the Greens.
The fines alone are revealing of Obamacare’s priorities. A business can pay a $2,000 fine per person, per year, to provide no health insurance at all, or a business can pay a $36,500 per person, per year fine, to provide health insurance that does not align with the president’s religious preferences. Either way, fines will force companies to cut jobs or drop health coverage altogether, which is not good for families or women.
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.
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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.