A federal appeals court in Denver sided with Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. on Thursday in its legal battle against part of the Affordable Care Act.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals moved to reverse a lower court's decision to deny Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.'s quest for an injunction against part of the Affordable Care Act that requires it to cover the cost of emergency contraceptives for some of its employees.
In a statement, Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green said he and his family believe that life begins with conception and paying for their employees to have insurance coverage for emergency contraceptives such as the morning-after pill would force them to violate their religious beliefs.
“We believe that business owners should not have to be forced to choose between following their faith and following the law,” he said in the statement. “We will continue to fight for our religious freedom, and we appreciate the prayers of support we have received.”
In a 168-page ruling issued Thursday, the federal appeals court sent the case back to a lower court for further review.
The panel of eight appellate court judges who heard arguments in May ruled unanimously that Hobby Lobby and its affiliated Christian bookstore chain Mardel have the right to sue over the Affordable Care Act.
“A religious individual may enter the for-profit realm intending to demonstrate to the marketplace that a corporation can succeed financially while adhering to religious values,” the judges said in the ruling.
The ruling is a blow to the federal government's argument that as for-profit corporations, the companies cannot claim that the health care law is a violation of constitutionally protected religious freedoms.
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the nonprofit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby, called the appeals court ruling a significant milestone for the company and other businesses that are challenging the health care law.
“It confirms all along the argument that we have been making for the Green family — that they have the right to exercise religion in the running of their business,” Duncan said. “The government has consistently denied that.”
Judges split on temporary injunction
Hobby Lobby is the largest company to sue the federal government over the health care law, according to the Becket Fund. The company is one of 60 legal challenges to the mandate on emergency contraceptives.