Hobby Lobby Closing?

The recirculation of a several-year-old, misleadingly headlined news story has spread the mistaken belief that the Hobby Lobby chain is closing.


The example text excerpted above is the opening to a 12 September 2012 USA Today op-ed piece by David Green, the CEO and founder of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-crafts stores, expressing his family's opposition on religious grounds to a new government health mandate that required employers to provide insurance coverage to their employees for contraceptives. Hobby Lobby filed a federal lawsuit challenging that mandate because it included such contraceptives as the morning-after pill and IUDs, which the plaintiffs considered to be forms of abortion:

The lawsuit by the Oklahoma City-based chain claims the government mandate is forcing the company's owners "to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits." Failure to provide the drugs in the company's health insurance plan could lead to fines of up to $1.3 million a day, the company said.

"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," David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO and founder, said in a statement. "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, alleges the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate is unconstitutional and requests an injunction to prohibit it from being enforced. Hobby Lobby is self-insured and will be required to comply with the mandate by Jan. 1 [2013], the start of its health insurance plan year.

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 drugs the lawsuit alleges are abortion-inducing, including the morning-after pill and week-after pill.

"The Green family's religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit says the family also has "a sincere religious objection" to providing coverage for certain kinds of intrauterine devices and alleges they can cause the death of an embryo by preventing it from implanting in the wall of a woman's uterus.

The morning-after pill works by preventing ovulation or fertilization. In medical terms, pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can reduce a woman's chances of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent.

But critics of the contraceptive say it is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it can prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

The text of that piece was widely referenced online under misleading headlines such as "Hobby Lobby May Close All 500+ Stores in 41 States," based on the notion that David Green would shutter the entire chain rather than comply with the federal mandate (even though he neither announced nor threatened such a course of action).

The lawsuit finally played its way out in court in June 2014, when the Supreme Court ruled that closely held, for-profit companies (such as Hobby Lobby) can claim a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act requirement that they provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives:

The Supreme Court ruled that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.

The 5-to-4 decision, which applied to two companies owned by Christian families, opened the door to challenges from other corporations to many laws that may be said to violate their religious liberty.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the court's five more conservative justices, said a federal religious-freedom law applied to for-profit corporations controlled by religious families. He added that the requirement that the companies provide contraception coverage imposed a substantial burden on the companies' religious liberty. He said the government could provide the coverage in other ways.

founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.



Snopes