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Hobby Lobby case: Christians or corporations?

The divisive struggle in the U.S. Supreme Court between Christian business owners and the U.S. government over contraceptives has become known around the country as the Hobby Lobby case.
by Chris Casteel Published: March 23, 2014
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The divisive struggle in the U.S. Supreme Court between Christian business owners and the U.S. government over contraceptives has become known around the country as the Hobby Lobby case.

But that is shorthand for two combined cases that include three for-profit corporations: Hobby Lobby, the national chain of arts-and-crafts stores; Mardel, a Christian book store chain; and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a furniture maker.

David Green started Hobby Lobby with a single arts-and-crafts store in Oklahoma City in 1970; the Oklahoma City-based company is now a nationwide chain of about 500 stores with more than 13,000 full-time employees. Mardel, also based in Oklahoma City, was founded by Mart Green, one of David Green’s sons, and now has 35 stores and about 400 full-time employees.

David and Barbara Green and their three children operate Hobby Lobby and Mardel through a management trust. Hobby Lobby is operated according to the family’s religious principles; the stores are closed on Sundays, employees are offered free access to chaplains and spiritual counseling, and the owners buy millions of dollars of advertising around Christmas and Easter inviting people to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Conestoga Wood is based in Lancaster County, Pa., and has 950 employees. The company was started in a garage by David Hahn in 1964.

The company is now run by Norman and Elizabeth Hahn and their three sons, Norman Lemar, Anthony and Kevin. They are devout Mennonite Christians who, according to case filings, integrate their faith into their daily lives and business.

The Greens and the Hahns oppose providing health insurance coverage for contraceptives that could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. To the families, that is the destruction of life.

After the Affordable Care Act was approved, a federal agency designed a mandate for health insurance plans to cover — at no cost — 18 contraceptives for women. The companies say there are four that could prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Under the law, Hobby Lobby could face fines of $1.3 million per day — or nearly $475 million per year — if it does not offer all of the contraceptives. If the company dropped its insurance coverage completely, it would have to pay about $26 million per year.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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