Hobby Lobby has a bee in their bonnet about the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The owners of Hobby Lobby, like many of their business peers, have decided that providing birth control, specifically Plan B, or the morning after pill, which they contend causes abortions, to their employees through their insurance is in violation of their religious freedom under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
So, Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit, claiming religious persecution, but was ruled against by the U.S. District Court in November. They filed an appeal for an injunction and were summarily denied by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, who cited a previous decision in a similar lawsuit:
The central point of the district court’s substantial-burden analysis was succinctly stated:
[T]he particular burden of which plaintiffs complain is that funds, which plaintiffs will contribute to a group health plan, might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by [the corporate] plan, subsidize someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiff[s’] religion. Such an indirect and attenuated relationship appears unlikely to establish the necessary “substantial burden.”
We agree. As the district court noted, other cases enforcing RFRA have done so to protect a plaintiff’s own participation in (or abstention from) a specific practice required (or condemned) by his religion. We do not think there is a substantial likelihood that this court will extend the reach of RFRA to encompass the independent conduct of third parties with whom the plaintiffs have only a commercial relationship.
The motion for an injunction pending appeal is denied.
But Hobby Lobby didn’t stop there. Instead, they appealed to the Supreme Court, who issued a four-page opinion, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, refusing to hear the case (emphasis added):
Applicants do not satisfy the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief they seek. First, whatever the ultimate merits of the applicants’ claims, their entitlement to relief is not “indisputably clear.” Lux v. Rodrigues, 561
This Court has not previously addressed similar RFRA or free exercise claims brought by closely held for-profit corporations and their controlling shareholders alleging that the mandatory provision of certain employee benefits substantially burdens their exercise of religion. Cf. United States v. Lee, 455 U. S. 252 (1982) (rejecting free exercise claim brought by individual Amish employer who argued that paying Social Security taxes for his employees interfered with his exercise of religion). Moreover, the applicants correctly recognize that lower courts have diverged on whether to grant temporary injunctive relief to similarly situated plaintiffs raising similar claims, Application for Injunction Pending Appellate Review 25–26, and no court has issued a final decision granting permanent relief with respect to such claims. Second, while the applicants allege they will face irreparable harm if they are forced to choose between complying with the contraception-coverage requirement and paying significant fines, they cannot show that an injunction is necessary or appropriate to aid our jurisdiction. Even without an injunction pending appeal, the applicants may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts. Following a final judgment, they may, if necessary, file a petition for a writ of certiorari in this Court.
For the foregoing reasons, the application for an injunction pending appellate review is denied.
So, what’s an anti-woman, anti-birth control organization to do? You flip the court the bird, of course, and put your money where your mouth is:
Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby will defy a federal law that requires employee health care plans to provide insurance coverage for types of contraception that the firm’s owners consider to be “abortion-causing drugs and devices,” an attorney for the company said Thursday.
With Wednesday’s rejection of an emergency stay of that federal health care law by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Hobby Lobby and sister company Mardel could be subject to fines of up to $1.3 million a day beginning Tuesday.
“They’re not going to comply with the mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the company. “They’re not going to offer coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the insurance plan.”
As for the potential fines, Duncan said, “We’re just going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Good for them. They’re going to stand by their principles, suck it up and pay the fines. But in all fairness, I hope they get fined up to their eyeballs. Religious freedom, in their eyes, only applies to them and they believe they should have every right to force their religious beliefs on their employees, no matter what those employees might believe, but that’s not how religious freedom works.
I guess they’ll learn the hard way.