Hobby Lobby takes on $1.3m-per-day fines during PPACA appeal
Obamacare mandate forces employers Jan. 1 to provide workers with abortion-inducing drugs
The 525-store arts and crafts chain, owned by a Christian family, petitioning for relief from the Jan. 1 federal mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that it provide its employees abortion-inducing drugs will not comply during the litigation, incurring fines of $1.3 million per day.
Hobby Lobby requested an injunction to suspend the mandate from the Supreme Court, which Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, denied Dec. 26, said Emily Hardman, communications director for the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, which is providing legal counsel to Hobby Lobby.
The justice, who identifies herself as a Catholic, wrote in her ruling that for the Supreme Court to intervene before an appeals court had reached its own verdict would be an unfair judicial interference in the lower court.
“Applicants do not satisfy the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief they seek,” she said. “Whatever the ultimate merits of the applicants’ claims, their entitlement to relief is not ‘indisputably clear.’”
Hardman, who is also an attorney, said the retailer’s petition is being heard in the Tenth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the company does not expect a ruling for several weeks.
The petition invokes the First Amendment protections for the free exercise of religion and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, she said.
Unlike Catholic and Catholic-affiliated petitioners seeking relief from mandates in the PPACA, Hobby Lobby does not object to providing birth control, but the Green family, who own the chain, morally oppose abortion.
The court denied Hobby Lobby’s request for a temporary halt of enforcement Dec. 20, forcing the company to seek relief from the Supreme Court, she said.
Kyle Duncan, the general counsel for Becket, said the company, founded by CEO David Green in 1970 in his garage, plans to continue their appeal despite the fines.
In a Sept.13 statement, Green said the company has grown from its start in Oklahoma City to now operating in 41 states with the combination of family involvement and an active Christian faith.
“My parents were both pastors, and all of my siblings are involved in ministry,” he said.
“I felt like somewhat of an outsider going into retail, but I’ve found a way to minister through Hobby Lobby,” he said.
“We have always operated our company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles, including integrity and service to others,” said Green. “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.”
All of the company’s stores are closed on Sunday, and each Christmas and Easter the company pays for full-page ads to celebrate those holidays.
Joining Hobby Lobby in the suit is Mardel Christian & Education, a 35-store religious book and school supply retailer, owned by Green’s son Mark, also based in Oklahoma.
Duncan said that Sotomayor, who oversees the circuit administratively, did not deny the request based on the merits of the case.
“The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time,” he said.
“It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the Tenth Circuit. The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees,” he said.
“To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” he said.
Hardway said there are 42 cases in federal courts seeking relief from the mandatory provision of birth control and or abortion-inducing drugs, representing 30 religious institutions, 12 companies and more than 110 individuals.
The Department of Health and Human Services, the lead agency for adminstrating the PPACA, granted religious institutions a 12-month “safe harbor” period to prepare for the birth control and abortion-inducing drugs mandate, she said.