Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Brief Counters Government “Divide and Conquer” Attempt to Violate Business Owners’ Religious Rights

Image: Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Brief Counters Government  “Divide and Conquer” Attempt to Violate Business Owners’ Religious Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 10, 2014
Contact: Emily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224

WASHINGTON – Hobby Lobby, the family-owned arts and crafts business founded by David and Barbara Green, asked the U.S. Supreme Court today to protect them from being forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or be forced to pay severe fines. The written brief filed today at the Supreme Court, calls a federal mandate to provide objectionable drugs and devices “one of the most straightforward violations … this Court is likely to see” of a 1993 law preserving the free exercise of faith.

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, to be argued at the Supreme Court March 25, 2014, will determine whether the government has the power to force family business owners to act against their faith based solely on their companies’ form of organization.  Specifically, the government is mandating that Hobby Lobby provide four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices through their health insurance plans or face severe fines, even as it concedes that doing so will violate the Green family’s beliefs.  The Greens and their family businesses have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives under the HHS mandate, and they provide a broad range of contraceptives at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan.

Hobby Lobby’s brief calls on two centuries of high court rulings to counter the government’s reasoning that the Greens’ rights as individuals cannot be exercised through their family-owned corporation. The brief insists that this freedom does not “turn on [the Company’s] tax status,” and further states that the Administration cannot “divide and conquer” the Greens’ religious liberties from those of Hobby Lobby to make those rights “simply vanish.”

“Hobby Lobby’s latest brief brings into even sharper focus the issue at the heart of this landmark case: No one should be forced to give up their constitutionally protected civil rights just to go into business,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby.   “The filing demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the government’s efforts to strip this family business of its religious rights represent a gross violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the Tenth Circuit’s strong affirmation of the Greens’ rights to live out their deeply held beliefs in every aspect of their business.”

In July, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction preventing the government from forcing the family business to provide the objectionable drugs and devices. The government then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  “The government has taken the extreme position that Americans forfeit their constitutional rights when they open a family business,” said Duncan.  “That rule would give the government broad powers to restrict religious freedom. People of all faiths should be concerned.” There are currently 93 lawsuits challenging the mandate, with 90% of the cases winning relief.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224.  

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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