Hobby Lobby and Mardel on Wednesday appealed an Oklahoma City federal judge's refusal to block enforcement of a mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires the Oklahoma City companies to provide insurance coverage for contraception to 13,000 employees and their dependents.
The brief claims U.S. District Judge Judge Joe Heaton's decision on Monday exposes the firm and its owners “to the precise predicament religious liberty laws exist to prevent — enormous government pressure to violate their sincere religious beliefs.”
Hobby Lobby founder David Green and his family own and operate the companies.
In legal filings, they refer to contraception known as the day-after pill and morning-after pill and some intrauterine devices that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb as “abortion-causing drugs and devices.”
The Green family has no objection to other contraceptives, and will continue covering its employees' costs for those.
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, said the insurance requirement puts the Green family in a severe conflict.
“Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to make a living without forfeiting their religious beliefs,” Duncan said.
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.