Claim: Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit over a federal mandate requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Example:[Green, September 2012]
When my family and I started our company 40 years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assembling miniature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn't much bigger than most people's living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God's word. From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of the nation's largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41 states. Our children grew up into fine business leaders, and today we run Hobby Lobby together, as a family.
We're Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I've always said that the first two goals of our business are 1) to run our business in harmony with God's laws, and 2) to focus on people more than money. And that's what we've tried to do. We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week's biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God's grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We've not only added jobs in a weak economy, we've also raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.
But now, our government threatens to change all of that. A new government health care mandate says that our family business must provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions. Which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one. If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3 million per day in government fines.
Origins: The example text excerpted above is the opening to a 12 September 2012 USA Todayop-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 government health mandate requiring 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 , 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.
Later in September 2012, other groups circulated petitions criticizing Hobby Lobby for its stance against the mandate and calling for a boycott of the company:
Christian activists attempted to deliver a petition to Hobby Lobby criticizing its challenge to a portion of the new federal health care law, but guards at the company's headquarters turned them away.
"I thought they'd let me drop off the package," said the Rev. Lance Schmitz, pastor of the Capitol Hill Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City.
Schmitz said more than 80,000 people had signed copies of a petition circulated nationwide by Faithful America, an online Christian group, and UltraViolet, which promotes women's rights. Schmitz said he intends to mail the petition to the company.
"When Hobby Lobby responds to an evangelical Christian pastor concerned about their policy by calling security to escort him off the property, it's fair to say their lawsuit has nothing to do with religious freedom," said [Faithful America director and petition organizer Michael] Sherrard. "There's nothing Christian about seeking to deny health care services that will improve the lives of women and families."
Schmitz and spokespersons for the Christian groups said the drugs are contraceptives and that women have a right to make their own medical decisions.
"Access to contraceptive care is a very good thing," Schmitz said. "This isn't about abortion. These pills do not cause abortion. It's contraception."
The petitions accuse Hobby Lobby's owners of using their Christian faith as an excuse to obstruct health care reform and deny women access to birth control. Petitioners vow to not shop at Hobby Lobby until the lawsuit, filed on Sept. 12 in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, is dismissed.
Hobby Lobby representatives maintained the petitions misleadingly created the impression the company objected to the mandated provision of all forms of birth control rather than just a particular subset:
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund, who is defending Hobby Lobby in the HHS lawsuit, [said] that although he does not know exactly what transpired at the company's headquarters, he has read the petition.
"The petition is misleading. It makes it seem as if Hobby Lobby is seeking to exclude birth control from its health plan all together. That's just not true. The Green family and Hobby Lobby do not have any religious objection to birth control per se. Their plans have covered preventive contraceptives and will continue to do so," Duncan said.
"What Hobby Lobby objects to and the reason they sued is because the HHS mandate forces Hobby Lobby to include a specific kind of drug," he explained.
The drugs are called Plan B and Levonelle, otherwise known as "the morning-after pill" and "the week-after pill."
"For many people, [the pills] are not even considered birth control because the way they operate is to prevent the implantation of an egg in the womb. For millions of Americans that take the traditional Christian view that life begins at conception, that amounts to an early abortion," Duncan said. "The petition totally misses that and instead says that 'Hobby Lobby is denying women birth control and therefore denying health care.' So, the premise of the petition is wrong."
As of December 2013 Hobby Lobby's case has worked its way through the federal court system, and the U.S. Supreme has agreed to hear it along with a similar case involving the pro-life Mennonite owners of the Pennsylvania-based Conestoga Wood Specialties.