An Oklahoma City clergyman delivered a petition to an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain Thursday, urging the company to drop its lawsuit against a government health mandate.
The Rev. Lance Schmitz, a Church of the Nazarene preacher, said the petition he gave to a Hobby Lobby employee Thursday has more than 80,000 signatures of people concerned that the retailer is placing women's health care at risk by trying to strike down the targeted U.S. Health and Human Services mandate.
The mandate requires health coverage for women to include free preventive services such as contraception, including IUDs and the morning after pill.
Churches and other nonprofit religious organizations are exempted on the basis of religious objections, but insurance companies are not.
Hobby Lobby, being self-insured, apparently is not exempt.
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, based in Washington, D.C., said the petition, launched by national organizations Faithful America and UltraViolet, is based on misinformation.
He said Hobby Lobby's lawsuit, filed Sept. 12, does not have anything to do with the contraception requirement, but rather a requirement that employers must pay for abortion-inducing drugs. The company's lawsuit claims that the mandate, which is part of the Affordable Care Act adopted in 2010, violates business owners' freedoms of religion and speech.
“We basically want to push back against the notion that this is about birth control. It's really not,” Duncan said.
Schmitz, 34, who said he was acting on his personal beliefs, not the Church of the Nazarene denomination, tried to deliver the petition Thursday at Hobby Lobby's headquarters at 7707 SW 44, but he said he was asked to leave the premises.
Instead, he went to a Hobby Lobby store on Reno Avenue and gave it to an employee there, asking for it to go to someone in the corporate division.
The petition, outlined in a news release distributed by Faithful America and UltraViolet, asks Hobby Lobby's leaders “not to use their Christian beliefs as an excuse to put women's health care at risk.”
Schmitz said he agreed to deliver the petition because he opposes anything that limits access to contraception, as he believes Hobby Lobby's lawsuit is attempting to do.
He said he is concerned that limiting access to contraception will result in an increase in unplanned pregnancies, which could result in more abortions.
Duncan said he took issue with the petitioners' assertion that Hobby Lobby's leaders, the Green family of Oklahoma City, should not use their faith as a guideline for their lawsuit. He said Hobby Lobby has a generous health care plan, and the company is not trying to say health care reform is illegal.
He said the company's leaders simply do not wish to pay for drugs that cause abortion.
“Hobby Lobby is not trying to control their employees' lives. All Hobby Lobby is trying to say is ‘please leave us out of providing these kind of drugs that our faith tells us is the wrong thing to do,'” he said.
Hobby Lobby founder David Green has long been known for his Christian religious convictions. The company operates more than 500 stories in 41 states.
CONTRIBUTING: The Associated Press