With just days before the Supreme Court is slated to hear the Hobby Lobby case challenging the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate, a group of 200 Catholic employers have filed suit. They’re seeking legal protection from the mandate, which forces employers to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs for their employees.
The Catholic Benefits Association, a group of 200 Catholic dioceses, agencies, and businesses, are suing in a federal court in Oklahoma to block the Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate.
The Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover contraception at no cost to employees, but churches and other houses of worship are exempted from that requirement. However, other religiously affiliated churches like hospitals, charities, universities, and more, are not exempt from it, and the Catholic Benefits Association would like to offer them plans that don’t follow the regulation.
The association filed the lawsuit, which asks for a temporary injunction for its members, in the same court where the retail chain Hobby Lobby previously filed suit. Hobby Lobby won their case in that court and then in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Hobby Lobby’s case later in March.
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 to protect it from being forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or be forced to pay severe fines. The company filed a brief last month at the Supreme Court is in preparation for oral arguments on March 25, 2014 before the nation’s highest court.
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.”
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.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.