Christians keep battling aspects of Obamacare Hobby Lobby says no to abortions

January 10, 2013

Christians at colleges, universities and private businesses are stepping up their battle to stop Obamacare from imposing mandates that violate their Bible-based beliefs.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has ordered companies to provide their employees health care insurance that includes payment for contraceptives and for the controversial “morning after” abortion pill. Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, a family-owned corporation, is suing Sebelius with the help of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Both sides of the issue have had victories and defeats.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced that Federal District Court Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff of the Eastern District of Michigan, granted its emergency motion for a temporary restraining order of the HHS Mandate.  The motion was filed on behalf of Tom Monaghan.

Zatkoff’s ruling effectively halts enforcement of the HHS mandate against Monaghan and his property management company, Domino’s Farms Corporation of which he is the owner and sole shareholder. Domino’s Farms Corporation manages an Office Complex owned by Monaghan and is not to be confused with Domino’s Pizza.  Monaghan sold the Pizza company in 1998 and has no active affiliation with it at this time. The HHS mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.
Erin Mersino is the lead counsel on the case. The need for quick resolution was clear – on January 1, 2013, Monaghan would have been forced to choose between violating his religious beliefs and violating federal law.

Zatkoff focused only on the claim brought under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  He held he did not need to engage in a separate discussion of the Constitutional right to the Free Exercise of Religion since both theories seek to protect the same liberty interest – the free practice of one’s religion.

The government is expected to appeal Zatkoff’s ruling.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak has praised the decision by a federal appeals court to temporarily bar the U.S. government from requiring an Illinois company to obtain insurance coverage for contraceptives.

The owners, Cyril and Jane Korte, fought the Obamacare mandate because it violates their religious faith. Doak has been a fierce opponent of the contraception mandate since Obamacare became law.

“Religious freedom is a basic constitutional right granted by our founding fathers and paid for by the sacrifice of millions of veterans for all the citizens of the United States to enjoy and currently that right is being eroded,” Doak said. “Where does it stop? If we do not stand up and protect religious liberties in health care now, then when?”

Doak has also pledged to personally support Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby, owned by the David Green family, in its decision to defy the emergency contraception mandate.

Both Hobby Lobby and Mardel stores could be fined as much as $1.3 million a day starting January 1.

“I am not opposed to contraception. I am for religious freedom and capitalism, both of which are under daily attacks by big government,” said Doak. “Let every American and Oklahoman have the ability to pursue freedom and happiness without total government control. If a potential employee does not like the benefits offered by an employer, let them seek another opportunity or purchase needed coverage in the private market. These federal mandates created by overzealous regulators are killing what has made our country great. Using their core values, the Green family runs a successful business that creates jobs. They believe God built and blessed their business for staying true to biblical principles. Those beliefs deserve respect. President Obama doesn’t understand that because he’s never built a company.”

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton ruled in November that Hobby Lobby must provide abortifacients to their employees or they will have to face daily fines of $1.3 million from the federal government. The owners of Hobby Lobby (the Green family) do cover contraceptives for their 13,500 full-time employees. They object to covering abortifacients like Plan B (the morning after pill) and Ella (the week after pill).

The family and their companies hoped to forestall the implementation of these federal fines by appealing to the Supreme Court. Justice Sonya Sotomayor rejected Hobby Lobby’s emergency request that they not be forced to follow the mandate or be subject to fines until its lawsuit could be decided in a lower court. Although other courts have issued preliminary injunctions in similar cases in Colorado and Michigan, she ignored those precedents.  Her ruling illustrates why she is unqualified to sit on the court and why she was chosen by President Obama in the first place.

Obamacare requires employers to provide all “approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capability.” Churches and houses of worship are exempt from the regulation, but there is also a narrow exemption that was added for nonprofit religious employers whose employees “primarily share its religious tenets.”

“They’re not going to comply with the mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby. “They’re not going to offer coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the insurance plan.”

According to the Becket Fund website, “The Green family has no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue its longstanding practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, the Green family cannot provide or pay for two specific abortion-inducing drugs. These drugs are Plan B and Ella, the so-called morning-after pill and the week-after pill. Covering these drugs, as the government is forcing them to do under the threat of $1.3 million penalty per day, would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception, when an egg is fertilized. The FDA-approved government birth control guide clearly states that these two drugs, the morning-after pill and the week-after pill, may prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, thus aborting the fertilized egg.”

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. began out of founder David Green’s garage and has grown from one 300-square-foot store to more than 500 stores in 41 states, becoming one of the nation’s leading arts and crafts retailers.

Devout Christians, the Green family believes that “it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.” Therefore, the Greens seek to honor God by “operating their company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

Believing their employees should have the opportunity to spend Sundays with their families, the company is closed on Sundays and only operates 66 hours per week.  Indeed, the Greens strive to apply the Christian teachings on respect and fairness to their employees, increasing the pay of Hobby Lobby’s full- and part-time hourly workers for four years in a row. Full-time hourly workers now start at 80 percent above the federal minimum wage.

For more information, go to becketfund.org.