It takes less than five minutes to make Hobby Lobby’s case against the United States government, a new video by the craft store giant and The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty shows.
So why has it gone all the way to the Supreme Court?
“We don’t want to sue our own government, that did not feel good,” Marv Green, Board Chair for Hobby Lobby and CEO of its sister chain, Mardel, says in the video. “But at the same time we felt like a line was drawn in the sand and we had to make a choice…. and so we’re asking the government now, please don’t make us make that choice. Let’s get on the same side of this issue. Please let us have our religious freedom.”
Protected by the First Amendment, the freedom to profess and exercise one’s religious freedom isn’t something government “lets” anyone do, according to our country’s founders. It’s something that the federal government must defer to when it makes laws and statutes.
But in its mandate to provide contraceptive drugs and procedures, elective sterilization, and “Plan B” pills in all employer-paid health insurance plans, the Department of Health and Human services ignored the Constitution. Despite receiving ample warning that many employers would refuse to pay for drugs and services they considered sinful — all of them elective and already available in every price range — HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refused to drop the requirement.
More than 90 suits have been filed over the mandate, on behalf of hundreds of employers. Some, mostly Catholic, entities have objected to paying for any of the drugs and procedures. Some, like Hobby Lobby, have objected only to those (such as “Plan B” pills and IUDs) that can cause very early abortions.
As Hobby Lobby’s management points out in the video, that amounts to only four of the 20 mandated drugs and procedures. But rather than drop the statute, the US government has chosen to fight 91 court battles — all with taxpayer money.
In Hobby Lobby’s case, that means fighting a company that provides exemplary benefits to its employees. Models of both American drive and Christian principles, the Green family turned a picture frame business operated out of their home into a national chain of stores, one that closes at 8 pm every night so that employees spend more time with their families, and that is not open at all on Sundays.
Full-time, entry-level employees make nearly double the minimum wage, and the family donates a hefty portion of their profits to charity.
Yet this is a company the US Department of Health and Human Services would fine $1.3 million every day.
The Greens won a temporary injunction against the government last year, but the HHS asked the Supreme Court to take up the case. The Court will hear arguments about Hobby Lobby and a related case in March. Last week, 56 amicus briefs (“friend of the court” arguments in support of a case) were filed by a variety of groups supporting the two companies, one of the largest amicus brief filings in American history.
The Becket Fund says the briefs included arguments by 107 Members of Congress from both parties, scholars and theologians, women’s policy groups, medical groups, religious and business groups (including Orthodox Jews, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention, a coalition of Protestant theologians, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and even the International Society for Krishna Consciousness), and 20 states.
“When I first heard about it, I was kind of confused as to why we would be told to do something that went against our faith,” Lauren Green McAfee says in the video.
The Department of Health and Human Services has yet to answer that question. Various claims — that no-cost birth control is necessary for “gender equity,” for instance, or to ensure healthy spacing between births in a country where the birth rate is barely at replacement levels — have been rejected by nearly all the courts that have heard HHS cases. Judges have been quick to point out that even if the government’s health arguments were valid, HHS cannot show that making employers pay for birth control and sterilization is the best or only way to ensure that all women get them.
So what is the reason for creating and sticking to a statute that clearly violates the First Amendment? Do Secretary Sebeilus and everyone at the HHS really believe that free sterilization (temporary or permanent) is so vital to the health of American women that nothing must be allowed to interfere with it, or is something larger going on? Does the United States government want to eliminate the First Amendment as a force in law, so there are no obstacles to any future legislation and, and no rival loyalties?
For Hobby Lobby’s owners and other employers facing betraying their religious conviction or financial ruin, why the government is determined to cow them is secondary. All that matters is that it does.
“This is an issue of life,” Hobby Lobby President Steve Green says. “We cannot be a part of taking life. To be in a situation where our government is telling us that we have to be is incredible.”
Amicus briefs available here