Judge rules Hobby Lobby must cover employees' contraception

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton ruled that Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby and Mardel must follow contraceptive health insurance rules that begin Jan. 1, and he rejected arguments that those mandates violated the owners' religious beliefs.
BY PAUL MONIES pmonies@opubco.com Modified: November 19, 2012 at 8:47 pm •  Published: November 19, 2012
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A federal judge ruled Monday against Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby and Mardel on a bid to block enforcement of contraceptive health-insurance provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In his ruling on a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton said the retailers were “secular, for-profit corporations” and did not have free-exercise rights under the First Amendment.

Attorneys for the family-owned crafts and book retailers said they plan to appeal the ruling to a federal appeals court in Denver.

Hobby Lobby and Mardel, founded by the Green family, challenged the federal health care law's coverage for certain contraceptive devices and pills on religious grounds. They were assisted by the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

“We disagree with this decision and we will immediately appeal it,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund, in a statement. “Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs.”

The stores said they could face fines of up to $1.3 million per day if they don't provide insurance coverage for contraception known as the morning-after pill, week-after pill and certain intrauterine devices to their employees and dependents. The Greens said they believe those types of contraception cause abortions.

Attorneys for the Green family and the retailers asked Heaton to stop enforcement of the law's provisions on contraceptive coverage before their case reached trial. The mandate would take effect Jan. 1.

Secular entities

In a hearing earlier this month, government attorneys said for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel were secular entities.

They said the contraceptive pills and devices were included among other forms of contraception under the health care law because medical experts deemed them necessary for women's health and well-being.

CEO David Green founded Hobby Lobby in 1972 and has grown the retailer to more than 500 stores in 41 states. Green's son, Mart, started Christian bookstore chain Mardel in 1981. The Greens close the stores on Sundays, offer chaplain services to employees and broadcast Christian music.

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