Hobby Lobby sues over insurance mandate for certain types of birth control
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Thursday, September 13, 2012
9/13/12 at 7:36 AM
Read the Tulsa World continuing coverage of the health care law.
OKLAHOMA CITY - Hobby Lobby Stores and its founders have filed a federal suit challenging a mandate that employer health insurance policies must offer certain kinds of potentially abortion-inducing birth control as a free preventative service for female employees.
The suit against U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius lists Hobby Lobby, Mardel Inc. and family members of company founder David Green as the plaintiffs.
The Oklahoma City-based businesses have some 13,600 employees in 41 states, according to the lawsuit.
The Affordable Care Act - "Obamacare" to its opponents - mandates that a wide range of preventative health-care services, including birth control, be offered to women without out-of-pocket expenses.
"Hobby Lobby has always been a tool of the Lord's work," Green said in a teleconference after the suit was filed. "But now our faith is being challenged by the federal government."
"We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate," Green said.
The Hobby Lobby suit says the mandate, which went into effect Aug. 1, will require the company's insurance plan to cover birth control products like Plan B, Ella - so-called morning after pills - and IUDs.
The three products can prevent the implantation of a human embryo in the wall of the uterus, which constitutes an abortion, the suit says.
"The Green family's religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices," the suit says.
The mandate illegally coerces the company to violate its founders' religious beliefs, violated the First Amendment's free exercise clause, discriminates against the company on the basis of religion, violates the plaintiff's free speech rights and is arbitrary and capricious, the suit says.
Kyle Duncan, an attorney for the Becket Fund of Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby in the case, said the company could face fines of up to $1.3 million a day if it doesn't cover the birth-control products with its self-insurance plan. If the company drops coverage, it would face fines of $26 million a year, he said.
Hobby Lobby had covered some forms of birth control in the past, and the Green family does not object to all birth control, only those forms that they believe can cause abortions, Duncan said.
The suit is the 27th challenge to the mandate, but Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic-owned business to file suit against the requirement, Duncan said. This is the first challenge in Oklahoma, he said.
In a Colorado case, U.S. District Judge John Kane has temporarily blocked enforcement of the mandate against a business owned by a Catholic family.
The plaintiffs ask U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton for a similar court order prohibiting the mandate's enforcement against them, Duncan said.
The birth control mandate exempted churches. When controversy over the requirement arose, the Obama administration said it would accommodate religiously affiliated organizations, such as hospitals and schools, with a new set of rules that have not been released.
The White House has said the pending rules won't require those organizations to pay directly for insurance that covers contraception. Instead, the rules would require the insurance companies to pay for contraception for covered women who want it, under the argument that it would lower the insurance companies' eventual costs.
Duncan said Hobby Lobby isn't affiliated with a church and wouldn't be eligible for the accommodation. A similar accommodation wouldn't work for the company because it's self-insured, he said.
Mart Green, son of David Green, is one of the plaintiffs in the suit. Mart Green is chairman of the Oral Roberts University board of trustees, but ORU spokesman Jeremy Burton said the school doesn't plan to file similar litigation at this point.
Original Print Headline: Hobby Lobby sues over health policy mandate
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
David Green: "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply ..."