Hobby Lobby to Defy Affordable Health Care Act Mandate

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Hobby Lobby faces millions in fines for refusing to comply with the insurance mandate. Original image by kevin dooley

Hobby Lobby Injunction Request

Under the Affordable Care Act, exemptions can be sought from provisions that go against the religious beliefs of those who are required to provide healthcare to their employees.

These exemptions are routinely granted to religious organizations, but the issue is less clear when it comes to secular for-profit companies such as the arts and crafts chain.

The request for an exemption was denied, and Hobby Lobby and Mardel initiated legal action against the federal government, seeking a court order to grant an exemption.

The primary argument in the main action is the Green family’s rights have been violated under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

 

That legislation states the government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion in a law of general application. The Greens are arguing the Affordable Care Act burdens the exercise of their religion by forcing them to pay for abortion-inducing drugs. The government’s position is that any burden imposed by the Affordable Care Act falls on secular for-profit corporations, not the Greens.

Injunction Request Dismissed

On December 26, 2012, Justice Sotomayer dismissed Hobby Lobby’s request for an injunction. Previous applications for injunctive relieve were dismissed by the District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, and the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The refusal means that if Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for such drugs, beginning on January 1, the company faces fines of up to $1.3 million a day.

In order to obtain an injunction, the applicants must show the legal rights at issue are “indisputably clear.” Although there have been over 40 lawsuits launched over the government’s refusal to grant similar exemptions, none have been finally determined. And in previous applications for injunctive relief, decisions of the lower courts have gone both ways. In light of these circumstances, Sotomayer found the issue before the court was not “indisputably clear.”

The justice also ruled although Hobby Lobby would be subjected to large fines, there was no irreparable harm. The company was still free to pursue its action through the courts and, if successful, could apply for a writ to quash the fines.

Hobby Lobby Will Not Comply with Mandate

Hobby Lobby is represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The organization is a non-profit, public-interest legal group created to protect the free expression of all religious faiths. The day after Sotomayer denied Hobby Lobby’s injunction, Becket’s general counsel, Kyle Duncan, issued a statement saying the company will continue to pursue the case in the Tenth Circuit. He also said, beginning in January, the company will not pay for what they consider to be abortion-inducing drugs.

By not paying for these drugs, the company faces of fines of over $40 million per month. As to paying these fines, Duncan is quoted in The Oklahoman as saying, “We’re just going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Resources:

SCOTUS Blog. Hobby Lobby et. al. v. Kathleen Sebelius et. al. (2012). Accessed December 31, 2012.

UPI. Religious convictions vs. the ‘morning after’ pill(2012). Accessed December 31, 2012.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Statement Regarding Sotomayer’s Opinion. (2012). Accessed December 31, 2012.

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