Later this month, Christian crafting store Hobby Lobby will battle the Obama administration in court over the HHS mandate that would require it to pay for abortion-inducing drugs for its employees.
Last month, the privately held retail chain with more than 500 arts and crafts stores in 41 states filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The company says it would face $1.3 million in fines on a daily basis starting in January if it fails to comply with the mandate, which requires religious employers to pay for or refer women for abortion-cause drugs that violate their conscience or religious beliefs.
A judge has scheduled a hearing on Hobby Lobby’s request for a preliminary injunction that would stop the federal government from requiring the company to provide insurance covering the morning-after pill. The hearing is set for 10 a.m. on Oct. 24 in Oklahoma City.
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma and the business says it is opposing the Health and Human Services “preventive services” mandate, which it says forces the Christian-owned-and-operated business to provide, without co-pay, the “morning after pill” and “week after pill” in their health insurance plan, or face crippling fines up to 1.3 million dollars per day.
“By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow,” said David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO and founder. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”
Hobby Lobby is the largest and the biggest non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate, focusing sharp criticism on the administration’s regulation that forces all companies, regardless of religious conviction, to cover abortion-inducing drugs. It has faced a small boycott from liberals upset that it would challenge the mandate in court.
Meanwhile, two Christian colleges are pursuing their own lawsuit against the Obama administration.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed its opening brief before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals requesting the Court reverse the dismissal of two HHS mandate lawsuits after the trial court held that the government’s “safe-harbor” protects the religious colleges from suffering any imminent harm and that their lawsuits were thus premature. This is the first time a federal Court of Appeals will consider the HHS mandate.
“The safe harbor’s protection is illusory,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Even though the government won’t make religious colleges pay crippling fines this year, private lawsuits can still be brought, schools are at a competitive disadvantage for hiring and retaining faculty, and employees face the specter of battling chronic conditions without access to affordable care. This mandate puts these religious schools in an impossible position.”
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On September 20, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit consolidated Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius and Wheaton College v. Sebelius in an expedited appeal against the HHS Mandate, which forces the two religious schools to violate their deeply held religious convictions or pay crippling fines.
“Regardless of the Safe Harbor, the Colleges are now experiencing government pressure to violate their religious convictions, and suffering present harm as a result. Like any educational institutions, they must plan well in advance for their upcoming budget and hiring needs,” the brief says. “[C]urrent employees at both institutions have expressed deep concerns about the possibility of losing health insurance, about the possible reduction in academic programming, and about increased costs passed on to them as a result of anticipated fines.”
There are now over 30 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”).
The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and in addition to Wheaton and Belmont Abbey represents Hobby Lobby, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, and Ave Maria University.