Hobby Lobby and its owners on Wednesday rejected the government’s claim that it is a secular organization, and therefore must offer employees insurance coverage that pays for contraception the owners call “abortion-causing drugs and devices.”
David Green, founder of the Oklahoma City-based retailer, his family and the company sued in Oklahoma City federal court in September to block the federal government from requiring the company to provide insurance coverage for contraception devices such as the “morning-after pill,” “week-after pill” and some kinds of intrauterine devices.
They are asking U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton to prevent the government from enforcing new health care rules on their business “and other individuals and organizations that object on religious grounds to providing insurance coverage for abortion-causing drugs and devices and related education and counseling.” A hearing on a preliminary injunction request is set for Thursday.
The company on Wednesday responded to a government filing in the case that argued the owners cannot raise religious objections to the preventive services coverage regulations because Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular corporation.
“The government cannot label people or organizations as ‘secular’ or ‘religious’ and grant or withhold freedom accordingly,” the company’s attorneys wrote. “The law simply protects the exercise of religion — whether the Greens practice it in their church, in their home, or in running their business.”
The Greens run their companies, Hobby Lobby and Mardel, under a statement of purpose that includes “operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.” Their stores close on Sunday, offer chaplain services to their employees and broadcast Christian music among other demonstrations of the owners’ religious beliefs.
The government can label Hobby Lobby and Mardel secular only by ignoring “that the companies exercise religion in obvious and significant ways,” the company’s lawyers wrote.
In the lawsuit, the Hobby Lobby owners describe themselves as “committed evangelical Christians.”
The company’s owners complain the regulations would force religiously motivated business owners like themselves “to violate their faith under threat of millions of dollars in fines.”
Hobby Lobby has more than 13,000 full-time employees in more than 500 stores, which are closed on Sundays in keeping with the owners’ beliefs.
The government responded that the Greens want to block regulations intended to give women access at no cost to approved contraceptive methods “that medical experts have deemed necessary for women’s health and well-being.”
The company, in its reply, noted that the owners don’t object to all forms of contraception, just “a handful of drugs and devices that cause abortions.”