Late this afternoon, a federal court granted a major victory to the Green family and Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., issuing the company a temporary restraining order to the coercive Obamacare mandate that requires employers to provide coverage of abortion-inducing drugs.
The ruling comes just one day after a lengthy opinion of the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit sent the case back to the district court to reconsider Hobby Lobby’s request for a temporary block to the mandate.
Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying massive fines starting this Monday morning,” remarked Becket Fund for Religious Liberty General Counsel Kyle Duncan. “We are delighted that both the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”
Hobby Lobby is a closely held family business, which the Green family seeks to operate in accordance with Christian principles. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, Hobby Lobby has grown from one 300-square-foot garage to over 500 stores in 41 states and employs more than 13,000 employees. The Green family is not only committed to serving their customers and employees but also to investing in communities through partnerships with numerous Christian ministries.
The Green family’s company, which closes all its locations on Sundays, seeks to operate in accordance with Christian principles, including offering an employee health care plan that aligns with those values. However, the Obamacare mandate would force Hobby Lobby to provide and pay for coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, despite the Green’s religious objections.
As the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals noted in its opinion yesterday, the Green family faced crippling fines unless it complied with the mandate. Absent the temporary halt to the mandate granted this afternoon, Hobby Lobby could have face fines of up to $1.3 million a day starting as early as next Monday. Even if the company had stopped offering health insurance altogether, harming their employees by taking away valuable benefits, Obamacare would still have hit Hobby Lobby with a fine of about $26 million per year after 2014.
The mandate’s offensively narrow religious exemption doesn’t apply to a large number of religious organizations, let alone family businesses such as Hobby Lobby. In fact, the Administration’s most recent rewrite of their “accommodation” explicitly excludes families who go into business to provide for themselves and their employees.
More than 200 plaintiffs are currently involved in more than 60 lawsuits against this HHS mandate. Of the 28 cases that have had rulings touching on the merits, 21 have received temporary halts to the mandate’s enforcement while their cases proceed. Most involve family businesses burdened by the coercive rule.
Employees and individuals should be able to choose health care that best fits the needs of their families and respects their freedom. Employers should be able to build and grow job-creating businesses in accordance with their values without threat of government penalties.
The first step on the road to regaining that freedom is rescinding the Obamacare anti-conscience mandate. Protecting Americans’ liberties more generally will require full repeal of Obamacare.