Hobby Lobby wins legal appeal

An appeals court reversed a lower-court decision, saying the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby can fight implementation of a healthcare law requiring employers to pay for types of contraceptives that they believe are abortifacients.

By Bob Allen

The Southern Baptist owners of Hobby Lobby won’t have to pay millions of dollars in fines, thanks to a federal appeals court ruling June 27 allowing the Oklahoma-based retailer to proceed with its lawsuit challenging Obamacare.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court erred in refusing to grant an injunction blocking implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The appellate court stopped short of issuing the injunction, however, returning the case back to the district court to examine unresolved religious-liberty claims.

Hobby lobbyHobby Lobby owners claim that a section of the law requiring employers to provide healthcare coverage that pays for FDA-approved contraceptives violates their faith. The Green family does not object to artificial birth control, but believe that two types of birth-control drugs and intrauterine devices represent an early form of abortion by preventing implantation after an embryo is conceived.

Unlike the lower court, the 10th circuit determined that the plaintiffs have a likely chance to succeed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents the government from “substantially” burdening a sincerely held religious belief without a “compelling” government interest.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby in the case, called the ruling “a tremendous victory not only for the Green family and for their business, but also for many other religious business owners who should not have to forfeit their faith to make a living.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of several groups to file friend-of-the-court briefs on both sides of the lawsuit, termed it “a dangerous distortion of the principle of religious liberty.”

“This court has taken a huge step toward handing bosses and company owners a blank check to meddle in the private medical decisions of their workers,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This isn’t religious freedom. It’s the worst kind of religious oppression.”

“Religious freedom means the right to make decisions for yourself, not the power to use your dogma to control other people,” said Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.