March 17, 2014 Print

Hobby Lobby Heads to Supreme Court Next Week — to Fight for Religious Freedom

by Bethany Monk

David and Barbara Green started a small business out of their garage in 1972. The Oklahoma family had just $600 and a lot of faith. Two years later, they opened their first Hobby Lobby store in Oklahoma City.

Today, the evangelical-owned arts-and-crafts chain employs more than 28,000 people in more than 500 stores across the country. And for the past three years, the Greens have been fighting a government mandate that could force them out of businesses.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear their case next week.

“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally are what we should operate our lives by,” said Hobby Lobby President Steve Green. “So, it naturally flows into the business.”

The Obama administration required for-profit businesses to offer potential abortion inducing drugs in employee health plans by August 2012. Nonprofits — many of which are faith-based — had a so-called safe-harbor from the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate until January.

“This is an issue of life, and we cannot be a part of taking life,” Steve Green explained. “So to be in a situation where the government is telling us we have to be is incredible.”

The Supreme Court will hear Hobby Lobby’s on March 25. The high court will also hear arguments that day in a case involving a Mennonite-owned business. The Hahn family, who owns and operates Conestoga Wood Specialties in Lancaster, Pa., filed a complaint against the mandate last year.

If the Supreme Court rules against the Green family business, the fines would be more than $1 million a day. David Green, the company’s CEO, has said he would rather shut it all down rather than comply.

More than 90 suits are in play.

To date, courts have granted 52 injunctions, halting the mandate for 33 for-profit businesses and for 19 nonprofit organizations.

Last summer, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Hobby Lobby a temporary reprieve from the mandate.

“That federal court decision said that they had a right to religious freedom and that the government had trampled on that right,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “What’s at stake here is whether you’re able to keep your religious freedom when you open a family business,”

The Supreme Court is expected to make its decision in these two cases this summer.

Barbara Green said it’s not about whether women have the right to take these drugs or not.

“We’re not trying to control that,” she said. “We’re just trying to control our participation in it.”

Read the complaint in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius.



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