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.
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The Green family said it has no moral objections to what it calls “preventive contraceptives” and will continue to cover those under its health insurance for Hobby Lobby and Mardel employees.
In his ruling on the preliminary injunction, Heaton said he was sympathetic to the Greens' personal opposition to the law on religious grounds.
“The court is not unsympathetic to plaintiffs' circumstances and recognizes that the (Affordable Care Act's) substantial expansion of employer obligations results in concerns and issues not previously confronted by companies or their owners,” Heaton wrote.
But Heaton said the companies were unlikely to win on First Amendment claims of religious freedom or under a separate federal law that protects religious exercise.
The Greens' decision to fight the federal health care law on religious grounds rallied support from some religious organizations, as well as those opposed to the law for more secular, political reasons. Hobby Lobby was the largest, non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the coverage mandate. Dozens of other companies, universities and health care systems have challenged the law's provisions on contraceptive coverage.
Among the Greens' supporters was the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which reiterated its support after Monday's ruling.
“There is no question that Hobby Lobby stores should be free to conduct business in a manner consistent with their values, one that protects life,” said Anthony Jordan, the group's executive director-treasurer. “Any ruling to the contrary is an affront to all we hold dear in this country. We stand with the Green family in their commitment to life and religious liberty.”
CONTRIBUTING: Religion Editor Carla Hinton
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