Privately held retail chain Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit Wednesday opposing the Health and Human Services mandate.
David Green, founder and CEO of the arts and craft store company, says faith has been an integral part of the business since the beginning. “We have always operated our company in a manner consistent with biblical principles,” Green said in a statement Wednesday, “including integrity and service to others. We believe wholeheartedly that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has been successful. Therefore, we seek to honor Him in all that we do.”
The company's lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, seeks protection from Obamacare's “preventive services” mandate, which forces businesses to provide the “morning-after” and “week-after” pills—without co-pay—in their health insurance plans. If Hobby Lobby failed to comply with this mandate, it would face fines up to $1.3 million 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,” Green explained. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”
There are now 28 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, but Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic-owned business to file such a suit. Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm, is representing the company.
Kyle Duncan, chief counsel for the Becket Fund, said the Green family is not against contraceptives—and will continue to cover birth control for their employees—but they are against abortion-inducing drugs.
Although some scientists have tried to prove that these pills do not cause abortion, Duncan argues that, “The FDA's own birth control guide published by the federal government says the morning-after and week-after pill may act by stopping implantation of a fertilized egg. The government itself recognizes it.”
Duncan said Hobby Lobby regrets having to go to court, but he insists that being fined for religious beliefs is unconstitutional.
“The Green family and everyone involved love the United States of America and respect their government,” he explained Wednesday. “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 anyone—including the Green family—for following their faith.”
The HHS mandate took effect on Aug. 1, which means businesses have until their insurance plan year after that to comply. For Hobby Lobby, that is Jan. 1—less than four months away. The company is seeking an injunction so it will not have to comply to the mandate while its case is in litigation.
“Hobby Lobby should never be put in the position of choosing their faith over their business,” Duncan noted. “Putting Hobby Lobby in that position violates their rights. We're asking the court to halt that so Hobby Lobby does not have to make that choice.”
The national arts and crafts retailer, which David Green started in 1972, has 500 stores in 41 states. The company is headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., and employs more than 22,500 people nationwide.
Green's parents were both pastors, and each of his siblings is involved in ministry. He said he is somewhat of an outsider because he went into retail, but he has found a way to minister through his company.
“Hobby Lobby has always been a tool for the Lord’s work. For me and my family, charity equals ministry, which equals the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Hobby Lobby is a family affair. His son Steve Green is the president; his daughter, Darsee Lett, is vice president; his son Mart Green is president of Mardel, a Christian bookstore that is an affiliated business with Hobby Lobby. David Green said several of his grandchildren also work in the business.
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