DENVER — A panel of eight federal appellate court judges will hear oral arguments Thursday on whether Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. should be exempt from part of the Affordable Care Act that requires the company to cover the cost of emergency contraceptives for its workers through its employee health plan.
The case is one of several pending legal challenges to the health care law, but could be one of the most important cases to be heard yet by an appellate court, said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in its challenge to the health care law. Hobby Lobby's challenge on emergency contraceptives is the first in the nation to be granted a review by a full panel of federal appellate court judges.
“We think that it is a very important case for religious freedom and the rights of business owners, and we are hoping for a good decision from the court,” Windham said.
Attorneys for Hobby Lobby argue that the crafts retailer and its affiliated Christian bookstore chain Mardel's are governed by the religious beliefs of company founder and CEO David Green and his family. The family believes emergency contraceptives, such as the morning-after pill, are a form of abortion, which conflicts with their religious beliefs.
“The Greens have adopted religious statements of purpose for Hobby Lobby and consistently direct Hobby Lobby to engage in religious practices, such as closing on Sundays and buying newspaper ads at Christmas and Easter inviting readers to ‘know Jesus as Lord and Savior,'” attorneys for the company argue in court documents.
A key component of the federal government's argument in the case deals with whether the rights of Hobby Lobby as a company are separate from those of its private ownership — the Green family.