On January 1, the Obama Administration’s HHS contraception mandate went into effect. The mandate requires all employers, save those the administration deems to be “religious,” to offer contraception to their employees or face heavy fines. A number of companies have filed lawsuits against the administration, contending that this mandated coverage violates their religious freedom. The response of courts to these lawsuits has so far been mixed. Last Sunday, Thomas Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, and owner of Domino’s Farms Corporation, was granted an injunction by Judge Lawrence Zatkoff of the eastern district of Michigan, southern division. In his ruling, Judge Zatkoff wrote: “The harm of delaying the implementation of a statute that may later be deemed constitutional is outweighed by the risk of substantially burdening the free exercise of religion.”
Commenting on the ruling, Monaghan’s attorney, Erin Mersino of the Thomas More Legal Center said “Earlier court cases have held it is not a constitutional right to have a free abortion or free contraception. Religious freedom, however, is a constitutional right protected by the First Amendment…We are not dealing with competing constitutional rights. We are dealing with the right to religious freedom versus the perceived entitlement to contraception and abortifacients.”
While the ruling is well and good for Mr. Monaghan, other Americans who have cited their religious convictions have not been lucky enough to have their cases heard by such judges.
Perhaps the most well known of these other cases is that brought by David Green, founder and CEO of the Hobby Lobby chain. The Hobby Lobby case was heard by first by a district court and then by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both courts denied Hobby Lobby’s request for an injunction to block the mandate from taking effect while the lawsuit works its way through the court system.
The company then filed an emergency injunction appeal to the Supreme Court. As the Catholic News Agency reported “On Dec. 26, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – who is responsible for hearing emergency requests from the 10th Circuit – denied the appeal, saying that the case did not meet the extreme standard necessary for the nation’s highest court to intervene.”
That is not a denial of an appeal to the Supreme Court, merely a ruling that the court would not apply the emergency relief, as did Judge Zatkoff in the Domino’s case. But what it does mean is that, beginning on January 1, Hobby Lobby is subject to fines of $1.3 million dollars per day — because Green, and members of his family, are following their religious convictions. By all accounts, Green is a generous employer who runs his company by Christian values.
Wizbang blog reported: “Green is very well known as an outspoken Evangelical Christian who has publicly professed to building his business based on Biblical principles. Like the Cathy family who operates the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain, Green closes his stores on Sunday. He also contributes millions of dollars each year to charity. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. is self-insured, and provides full coverage health insurance to 13,000 of its company’s 21,000 employees. He runs a clinic that provides free health care to insured employees, and reduced cost health services to others. Hobby Lobby also sets its starting pay for full time employees at $11.00 an hour, $3.75 more than the Federal minimum wage.”
Green, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, has vowed to keep fighting. The company will continue to provide health care to its employees, but without paying for the “Plan B” “morning after pill,” which, depending on circumstances, can act as an abortafacient. That means he will likely incur the enormous fines.
His stand has attracted support and admiration among Christians and other defenders of the Constitution. A Facebook page has been set up:www.StandwithHobbyLobby.com which urges supporters to recognize this Saturday, January 5, as “Stand with Hobby Lobby” day and to patronize Hobby Lobby on that day. If there is not a Hobby Lobby near you, organizers say, visit www.shop.hobbylobby.com and purchase something to show the Green Family your support.