In his ruling, Heaton said the retailers were “secular, for-profit corporations” and did not have religious free-exercise rights under the First Amendment.
The appeal said the company and its owners are exposed to huge potential penalties, including fines of up to $1.3 million per day, annual penalties of about $26 million and private lawsuits. The emergency injunction the companies are seeking would allow them to avoid those potential penalties when the firms fall under the mandate on Jan. 1.
“The government puts appellants to an impossible choice: either give up the religious exercise, or pay millions in fines,” the brief states.
The Green family demonstrates evangelical Christian principles by closing their stores on Sundays, buying large newspaper ads at Easter and Christmas and foregoing profits by refusing to carry certain types of merchandise.
Government attorneys did not dispute that the Greens' religious principles are sincere. But they argued that the for-profit companies are secular entities.
Hobby Lobby, which operates more than 500 stores, is the largest and was the first non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the mandate.