By Dave Andrusko
U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton yesterday denied a request by the privately held retail chain Hobby Lobby to prevent the government from enforcing portions of ObamaCare that mandate insurance coverage for contraceptives the company’s Christian owners said would violate their freedom beliefs.
“We disagree with this decision and we will immediately appeal it,” says Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the company owned by the Green family. “Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs. The Green family needs relief now and we will seek it immediately from the federal appeals court in Denver.”
The suit also involved Mardel, a chain of Christian bookstores owned by the same family.
Hobby Lobby is the largest and first non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate.
Founded in 1972, the Green family has grown Hobby Lobby from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 500 stores in 41 states. “It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” said David Green, Founder and CEO. “Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”
In a 28-page decision Judge Heaton of the U.S. District for the Western District of Oklahoma denied the request for a preliminary injunction. “Heaton ruled that while individual members of the family that owns and operates Hobby Lobby have religious rights, the companies the family owns are secular, for-profit enterprises that do not possess the same rights,” Reuters reported.
The Becket Fund explained that Judge Heaton did not question that the Green family has sincere religious beliefs. The court ruled, however, that those beliefs were only ‘indirectly’ burdened by the mandate’s requirement…”
Reporting for the Associated Press, Tim Talley wrote
“In his ruling denying Hobby Lobby’s request for an injunction, Heaton said that while churches and other religious organizations have been granted constitutional protection from the birth-control provisions, ‘Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations.’
“’Plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion,’ the ruling said.
“Heaton wrote that ‘the court is not unsympathetic’ to the problems cited by Hobby Lobby and their owners, the Green family. He said the health care law’s expansion of employer obligations ‘results in concerns and issues not previously confronted by companies or their owners.’”
“’The question of whether the Greens can establish a free exercise constitutional violation by reason of restrictions or requirements imposed on general business corporations they own or control involves largely uncharted waters,’ Heaton wrote.”
On the plus side, last Friday U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton issued a preliminary injunction stopping enforcement of the Obama administration’s mandate against a Bible publisher represented by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys. The administration argued that Tyndale House Publisher isn’t religious enough for an exemption from the mandate.
Walton’s order is the third nationwide against the mandate and the second obtained by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys. The parties will return to Walton’s court for arguments on whether to issue a permanent injunction, although Walton did not set a specific date for those proceeding
The Beckett Fund says that there are now 40 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate,
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