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Religious leaders express their continued support for local retailer Hobby Lobby in federal mandate suit

Several state religious leaders recently expressed their solidarity with Hobby Lobby Stores in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City-based retailer's recent victory in its fight against a controversial federal mandate.
by Carla Hinton Published: July 6, 2013
/articleid/3859237/1/pictures/2151263">Photo - The Rev. Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Photo provided <strong></strong>
The Rev. Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Photo provided

Recently, Coakley said the Greens of Hobby Lobby care about their employees and their employees' welfare. He said requiring Hobby Lobby to pay fines as they seek relief from the health care mandate would unnessarily jeopardize the company's employees' jobs and their health.

“By staying those fines, the 10th Circuit judges have demonstrated their understanding of the good faith of the Green family and of the seriousness of this case against the contraception mandate,” Coakley said. “Government-mandated, employer-provided insurance that covers abortifacients is in no way essential to human flourishing — but religious liberty is.”

Meanwhile, some local community leaders said if Hobby Lobby's suit succeeds, the company will effectively discriminate against their employees' religious rights.

“They are infringing upon the religious rights of their employees who may want to take advantage of services they find acceptable but their employers find unacceptable,” said Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City.

The Rev. Jonalu Johnstone, associate pastor of First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City, said she thinks the furor over the contraception mandate could be avoided in the first place if employers are not responsible for their employees' health care.

“What if a Christian Science employer decided that they wouldn't fund things that are against their religion? If employers are able to use their own religious convictions for what their employees can or cannot receive, that's problematic,” she said.

National faith leaders speak out

Tuesday, an open letter to the Obama administration and Congress regarding the health care mandate's “threat to conscience” was released by Archbishop William E. Lori, of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and more than 100 prominent national religious leaders and scholars.

The religious leaders' letter, entitled “Standing Together for Religious Freedom,” calls for the Obama administration and Congress to respect the conscience rights and religious freedom of all employers.

The group wrote that freedom of religion goes beyond freedom of worship and extends to believers' roles as citizen and employer.

The letter calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to, “at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services.”

The signers of the letter represent a wide variety of religious groups, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Orthodox Christian and Jewish leaders, plus scholars and heads of faith-based institutions and civil rights organizations.

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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