It’s not the end of the Hobby Lobby saga, but really the beginning of a new chapter: the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower-court ruling that prevented the company from seeking an injunction against the contraceptive mandates of ObamaCare on conscience grounds. From a Reuters report:
A divided 10th Circuit found that Hobby Lobby and its smaller sister operation, Mardel, a Christian-oriented bookstore and educational supply company, have a right to religious freedom under federal law.
Five of the nine judges found that the company met at least some of the requirements needed to win temporary protection from the mandate while their lawsuit proceeds in court.
“Because the contraceptive-coverage requirement places substantial pressure on Hobby Lobby and Mardel to violate their sincere religious beliefs, their exercise of religion is substantially burdened,” a majority of the judges concluded.
The appeals court sent the case back to the district court in Oklahoma to consider several additional factors that Hobby Lobby must prove to obtain temporary shelter from the mandate, including whether an exemption would serve the public interest.
This ruling will spare Hobby Lobby from the $1.3 million in daily fines it was about to start paying, beginning next week. If they succeed in obtaining relief from the ObamaCare mandate, it would be a landmark achievement, since conscience waivers have thus far been restricted to religious institutions, but not for-profit companies run by people of faith. The Associated Press looks at the ramifications of today’s decision:
“Sincerely religious persons could find a connection between the exercise of religion and the pursuit of profit,” the judges wrote. “Would an incorporated kosher butcher really have no claim to challenge a regulation mandating non-kosher butchering practices?”
More than 30 businesses in several states have challenged the contraception mandate. Hobby Lobby and a sister store – Christian booksellers Mardel Inc. – won expedited federal review because the chain would have faced fines Monday for not covering the required forms of contraception.
The U.S. Department of Justice has argued that allowing for-profit corporations to exempt themselves from requirements that violate their religious beliefs would be in effect allowing the business to impose its religious beliefs on employees.
Lawyers for the Green family called the ruling a “resounding victory for religious freedom.”
The Greens “run their business according to their Christian beliefs,” said Emily Hardman, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the judges were wrong to say Hobby Lobby had a case.
“This court has taken a huge step toward handing bosses and company owners a blank check to meddle in the private medical decisions of their workers,” executive director Barry Lynn said in a statement. “This isn’t religious freedom; it’s the worst kind of religious oppression.”
Refusing to pay for other people’s contraceptives is “meddling in their private medical decisions” now. Collectivism leaves little room for individual conscience, or responsibility.