The Hobby Lobby chain is closing all its stores in protest over a federal contraceptives mandate.
In a 12 September 2012 USA Today op-ed piece, 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:
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.
[Rest of article here.]
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.
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 (although he did vaguely suggest that the company might not be able to afford the potential financial penalties for refusing to comply with the mandate).
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) could 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.
Similar Hobby Lobby closure rumors circulated in mid-2017, after the chain was fined $3 million by
Federal prosecutors over claims that the company had bought artifacts smuggled from Iraq that were deliberately mislabelled.