Hobby Lobby braces for millions in mandate fines

Hobby Lobby Courtesy of the Becket Fund CNA US Catholic News 9 12 12 A Hobby Lobby location. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

Arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby says it is willing to pay fines of $1.3 million per day to follow its owners' religious beliefs, which conflict with the federal mandate that requires coverage of abortion-inducing drugs.

"The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees," said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in the case.

"To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs," he explained.

Hobby Lobby's founder and CEO, David Green, has said that his family – which has owned the company since its 1972 founding – will continue seeking to serve God through their business decisions.

In addition to making significant charitable donations, the company closes all of its stores on Sundays so that its employees can have time to worship and rest with their families.

However, the Greens' ability to run their company in accordance with their religious beliefs is being threatened by the contraception mandate, which was finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services in Jan. 2012.

The mandate requires employers, regardless of their religious convictions, to provide health insurance plans that cover sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause early abortions. As Christians, the Greens are opposed to facilitating any type of abortion, including those caused by "morning after" and "week after" pills.

Hobby Lobby is one of more than 100 plaintiffs that have sued over the mandate, arguing that it violates the First Amendment's religious freedom protections.

The federal government has argued that the owners of "secular, for-profit" companies cannot exercise freedom of religion in their business decisions.

Both a district court and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Hobby Lobby's request for an injunction to block the mandate from taking effect while the lawsuit works its way through the court system.

The company then made an emergency injunction appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Dec. 26, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – who is responsible for hearing emergency requests from the 10th Circuit – denied the appeal, saying that the case did not meet the extreme standard necessary for the nation's highest court to intervene.

The Greens can now continue their appeal before the federal appellate court. However, because they were not granted an injunction, they are subject to fines of more than $1 million per day – beginning Jan. 1 – so that they can follow their consciences while their case is being considered.

Duncan emphasized that the case is not over.

"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."

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