An arts and crafts retailing giant suing the government over a mandate requiring most business offer contraceptives and possible abortion-inducing drugs faces $1.3 million in fines per day for refusing to comply with the new law.
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberties — representing Hobby Lobby in the case — said the store will continue offering health insurance to all qualified employees, but will not pay for possible abortion-inducing drugs.
The Obama administration required most businesses to comply with the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate by Aug. 1, 2012. Dioceses, Catholic hospitals and some other faith-based ministries have a so-called “safe harbor,” and must comply by August 2013.
“The HHS mandate is a perfect example of what happens when government chooses to shove our founding principles aside in furtherance of some political objective,” said CitizenLink Judicial Analyst Bruce Hausknecht.
The Evangelical-owned chain filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in September. Two months later, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the store’s request for a temporary relief from the mandate as litigation in the case proceeds.
Hobby Lobby then filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. In late December, however, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor rejected Hobby Lobby’s request for reprieve from the mandate.
“The mandate forces employers with a religious conscience to make a choice that in this country should be anathema — they either have to comply with the law and violate their most deeply held religious beliefs about the sanctity of life, or pay huge fines for non-compliance and risk bankruptcy, or simply close the doors of their business or ministry,” Hausknecht added.
The store’s CEO and Founder David Green, who is a Christian, opened Hobby Lobby in 1972. The business now employs more than 13,000 people in more than 500 stores in 42 states. The Green family provides chaplains who minister to workers; all stores are closed on Sundays.
“By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow,” Green said in an earlier statement. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”
More than 110 plaintiffs in 43 separate cases are suing the government over the HHS mandate.
Courts so far have granted 10 requests for temporary relief from the mandate. Hobby Lobby is one of three businesses to be denied a preliminary injunction against the new law.
More than 60,000 Hobby Lobby supporters throughout the country signed up to shop at the store Saturday during Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day, organized by Joe Grabowski. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee supported the campaign by urging his Facebook friends Saturday to shop at the store.
A court date has not been set in the case.