Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2012 / 13:14 pm America/Denver (CNA).
Arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., announced that it is filing a lawsuit against the federal government over a mandate requiring it provide coverage of early-abortion drugs to employees.
“We have always operated our company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles, including integrity and service to others,” said Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green.
At a Sept. 12 press call announcing the lawsuit, Green explained that faith has been an “integral” part of the business from its humble beginning as a miniature picture frame company in 1972.
“Hobby Lobby has always been a tool for the Lord’s work,” he said.
Green said that he has “found a way to minister through Hobby Lobby.” He attributes his success with the company – which now has more than 500 stores and 22,500 employees nationwide – to God’s grace and said that he seeks to honor the Lord in everything he does.
Part of this faith means caring for the company’s employees, Green explained. He noted that the company is closed on Sundays – sacrificing millions of dollars in profits – in order to allow employees to spend time with their families.
In addition, he said, the company’s minimum wage for full-time employees is 80 percent above the national minimum wage.
“We also believe in sharing our faith,” Green added, pointing to the time and money that the company contributes to fund ministries throughout the world, as well as the full-page ads that it purchases at Christmas and Easter in every major city where it is present.
“For me and my family, charity equals ministry, which equals the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Green explained that his freedom to operate his business in accordance with his beliefs is now being threatened to by the federal contraception mandate, announced on Jan. 20, which requires employers to offer coverage of free contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs.
While he does not object to preventive birth control, which is already covered by the health care plan he offers, Green gravely objects to offering the “morning after” and “week after” pills, which induce early abortions by causing the death of an already existing human embryo.
“We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate,” he said.
Filing a lawsuit in a federal district court in Oklahoma, the self-insured arts and crafts retailer is now the 88th plaintiff to file a lawsuit challenging the mandate. It is also the only non-Catholic-owned for-profit business to do so.
While a narrow religious exemption to the mandate has been carved out for a small percentage of religious organizations, no protection has been offered to non-religious businesses such as Hobby Lobby that are owned and operated by Christian individuals seeking to put their faith into practice.
For these “secular” businesses, the mandate goes into effect as soon as a new year of their insurance plan begins after Aug. 1, 2012.
For Hobby Lobby, the new health care plan year will begin Jan. 1, 2013, and if the company does not provide the mandated coverage, it will face fines of more than $1 million per day.
The company is seeking a temporary injunction to block the mandate from taking effect while its lawsuit works its way through the court system. A similar injunction was granted to a Colorado company in July.
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in its lawsuit, said that the Green family strives to ensure that “the faith they teach their children at home is consistent with the choices they make at work.”
“In a profound way, their business is a ministry,” he said.
“Today, they’re asking the federal court to protect their right to run their business as they always have, in harmony with their Christian faith,” Duncan explained.
“The government cannot fine any American – including business owners like the Greens – for refusing to violate their faith,” he said.